On Wednesday April 4, as part of Fairfield University’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Office of Student Diversity Programs & Multicultural Affairs hosted a dialogue on sexual assault awareness and our campus’ culture surrounding hookups.
This discussion aimed to help inform students on the resources campus has in relation to these incidents, such as individuals to report incidents to, as well as the measures students can take to look out for one another at parties and other social gatherings.
One of the key parts of the discussion was that hookup culture is something that is prevalent at not only Fairfield, but most college campuses across the country.
Sexual assault was also discussed, which is an issue on campus. In 2016, there were six reported sexual offenses at Fairfield, which was an increase compared to 2015, which had four reported incidents. There was a decline in reported incidents of dating violence, with one in 2016 and four in 2015. Notably, reported incidents of assault are generally higher near the townhouses because of the higher incidence of social gatherings and parties.
Another part of the discussion detailed Title IX, which is legislation that covers discrimination on the basis of gender.
The Dean of Students, Karen Donoghue, highlighted that, “[Title IX] also includes sexual harassment, which is inclusive of sexual misconduct and sexual assault. With that said, every university has to have someone appointed as their Title IX compliance coordinator, and ours is Christine Brown.”
Donoghue explained the role of the Title IX Coordinator, “Christine Brown oversees our campus when it comes to any of our policies related to Title IX and she is one of the people a student can report to if they would like to start the investigation in the community, or if they just want to inform someone of a sexual assault, or any acts of sexual violence or harassment that has occurred in our community.”
As for why this discussion is something students should be aware of, the Event Coordinator for Student Diversity & Multicultural Affairs, Jasmine Raghunandan ‘17, stated that it is because of the lack of visibility for sexual assault awareness.
“It’s one of those things where it’s [Sexual Assault Awareness Month] a really important annual event and we have a few students who show interest that should really be supported…by students, peers and faculty,” added Raghunandan.
One of the noticeable problems of these events meant to make students and the community aware of sexual assault and harassment is that the attendance was considerably low across all events.
The event was met with low attendance despite the time change from noon to 12:30 p.m. Less than 15 people were in the audience. The preceding event, a screening of “The Hunting Ground” which chronicles the administrative response to sexual assault on select college campuses, was attended solely by Fr. Doody, S.J. for most of the film.
Raghunandan noted, in regards to the disconnect that students are having with these events,“for one, it’s April, which is always really hectic and two, it’s a sensitive topic so a lot of the people who were here were from Distinguished Gentlemen and Todd Pelazza’s FYE [First Year Experience] group, or they’re student leaders, know the panelists or are personal friends of mine.”
Junior Alyssa Vigorito commented on the hook-up culture on campus, “I know plenty of people who freely talk about the people they hookup with, and that’s okay. No judgment. But some people are a little more reserved, which is also just fine and I believe that’s in part because the aftermath of faux intimacy sometimes leads us to be confused and anxious.”
Vigorito further expressed that, “Tinder is a good representation of how hookup culture is so pervasive, yet it can impact us negatively. You match with someone and hookup with them, and the next day you guys awkwardly refrain from making eye contact in public. It’s hurtful for both parties. It makes us feel confused and anxious — and no one wants to address such vulnerable feelings.”
Another student, Sidney Sarfo ‘20, stated, “[Hookup culture is] an issue at any college campus but it’s more about how it’s being gone about that is the problem. When both parties give consent and do so safely and soberly, there’s usually no problems.”
Sarfo added, “When alcohol or date rape drugs are involved or even when something like miscommunication happens is when the line is often crossed. Yes people see the problem, but awareness can be raised in more ways so they can fully understand the severity of this issue.”
To raise awareness, Raghunandan feels, students must overcome a lack of concern, “I think the disconnect comes from a sense of apathy; even though we’re a school that prides itself on social justice, I really have to call into question how many times do we really think we’re doing things and the entire community wants to rally for it.”
This sense of apathy can be seen in students reaction to other social justice issues, “I’ll refer to the fact that we had a ‘die-in’ a couple of years ago at the library and what people remember is that students were stepping over the students that were imitating the ‘die-ins’ as opposed to stopping and saying ‘what’s going on’ because they were in the rush of finals. We have a very individualized mindset where, if it doesn’t benefit me and my goals, I’m not going to invest my time in it,” said Raghunandan.
When asked about whether social justice issues are being addressed enough on campus, Lauren Paidas ‘20 said, “I would say yes, but there could always be more to be done. I live in McCormick [70 McCormick Road], which is the service for justice building, so I definitely see that as one thing being done, but there’s always room for improvement.”