CERC rallies for Survivor’s Bill of Rights Friday

By Shelby Ashline

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(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

A crowd of more than 50 students rallied together outside the Student Union Friday afternoon, clapping, snapping their fingers and chanting in support of the Coalition to End Rape Culture at the University of Massachusetts.

The organization aims to pass a Survivor’s Bill of Rights, a policy that would increase the rights and resources provided to survivors of sexual violence at UMass. Friday’s rally preceded a walk to the Whitmore Administration Building, where CERC president Priya Ghosh demanded a meeting with Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy about the policy.

Using a megaphone, Ghosh spoke to the crowd about the need for more support for rape survivors on campus. She was joined by six additional speakers who shared their personal stories.

“The reason we have so many people in CERC is because survivors are afraid to go out to the administration, so they go to us, their peers,” Ghosh said.

Although survivors may speak with counselors from the Center for Women and Community and the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health, Ghosh said they are encouraged to report the incident to the UMass Police Department, which is something that many survivors are not comfortable with.

It is CERC’s belief that survivors should “get support without having to report.”

“A great amount of the concerns shared by the students really are in line with what we want to achieve, and much of it has been achieved,” UMass spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski said when reached by phone Friday night.

Blaguzewski provided an additional statement to the Collegian that said the University will continue to “diligently” work to support victims and survivors of sexual violence. Debora Ferreira, UMass’ executive director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, expects the University will adopt the Survivor’s Bill of Rights in the future, per the statement.

Blaguszewski said that there’s hope that “substantial progress” will be made to reach that goal over the course of the school year.

Ghosh also said at Friday’s rally that the University is not providing enough financial support to survivors of sexual violence, which is a requirement under Title IX policy. UMass has been under investigation for potential violations of Title IX policy since 2011.

“Under Title IX, UMass is required to pay for all the costs that recur when you’re a survivor,” she said. “And the University is not paying for survivors.”

Per Blaguszewski’s statement, UMass provides reimbursement of tuition and fees to survivors that choose to withdraw from classes.

Other student speakers lamented a lack of general institutional support, expressed anger with the UMass Police Department’s response to reports of sexual violence, and reminded students that sexual violence on campus has occurred for generations.

At 1 p.m., after 45 minutes of chants and speakers, the group marched to the Whitmore Administration Building to the office of the chancellor and provost. Several marchers carried a mattress, which had been covered with a floral print sheet. The words, “We demand a Survivor’s Bill of Rights now,” were written on the mattress using red duct tape.

Chants continued into the building, echoing up the stairs, only quieting when the group reached the chancellor’s office. Upon arriving, Ghosh spoke with the chancellor’s chief of staff, Natalie Blais. In response to Ghosh’s request for a meeting with Subbaswamy, Blais said she would try to confirm a meeting within the next two weeks and would be in touch with Ghosh.

The group initially presented its Bill of Rights to administrators last March.

To continue the fight for the Survivor’s Bill of Rights, representatives from CERC will speak at a UMass Board of Trustees meeting at UMass Lowell on Wednesday at 9 a.m. Ghosh and fellow CERC member Abby Alfaro are allowed three minutes to speak about CERC’s mission, present statistics concerning campus rape and to introduce the Survivor’s Bill of Rights to the Board of Trustees.

In addition, CERC circulated a petition throughout the day outside of the Student Union. The petition, which shows students’ support in a Survivor’s Bill of Rights, was signed by more than 600 students before the march to the chancellor’s office. The goal, Ghosh said, is to get 1,000 signatures by the end of the semester.

Ghosh said CERC’s goal is not just to pass the Survivor’s Bill of Rights at UMass Amherst, but at all the UMass campuses.

Shelby Ashline can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Shelby_Ashline.