UMass joins national ‘It’s On Us’ campaign

By Nicole Dotzenrod

(Collegian File Photo)
(Collegian File Photo)

The University of Massachusetts is joining the White House’s national “It’s On Us” campaign to end sexual assault on college campuses.

On Sept. 19, President Barack Obama launched the initiative to raise awareness and end sexual assault by asking men and women across the United States to commit to being an active bystander, according to the White House’s website. Five days after the launch, 233 campuses had signed on.

The “It’s On Us” campaign website outlines what it means to be an active bystander in its pledge: “To recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault. To identify situations in which sexual assault may occur. To intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. To create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.”

UMass students from various organizations met last week to establish plans and goals for this year’s campaigns, including “It’s on Us.”

Ellie Miske, director of Women’s Affairs for the Student Government Association and member of the Coalition to End Rape Culture (CERC), said the campaigns at UMass are in the initial stages. She said her hope for the “It’s On Us” campaign is to bring together several groups and causes on campus to fight sexual assault. She has been working closely with faculty and administration on the cause.

Other campaigns, such as “UMatter at UMass,” have been working collaboratively with organizations including the Center for Men and Masculinities and the Center for Women and Community.

So far, there are two events planned for this semester as part of the campaigns.

The Center for Men and Masculinities will host Michael Kimmel as a guest speaker Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom. Kimmel is a distinguished sociology professor at Stony Brook University in New York and founder of the Men and Masculinities journal. He is also the spokesperson for the National Organization for Men Against Sexism.

The second event, hosted by CERC, will feature a guest speaker from “Know Your IX” on Nov. 5 at 4 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom. “Know Your IX” is a survivor-run, student-driven campaign to end sexual violence on college campuses. The campaign focuses on educating students across the country about their right to an education free from sexual violence and harassment, and gives students the resources to understand Title IX.

“These campaigns are important because sexual assault is so prevalent on campus and we want people to know how to respond to survivors,” Miske said. “I think that education and visibility are important pieces for changing the overall campus climate.”

Anyone interested in becoming involved in these campaigns is encouraged to contact Miske at [email protected]

Victims of sexual assault can also visit the UMass Center for Women and Community or visit its website for support at www.umass.edu/ewc.

Nicole Dotzenrod can be reached at [email protected]