In an effort to draw attention to sexual assault at Binghamton University, students speakers from the class Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies 282: Activism, Feminism and Social Justice held a sexual assault awareness town hall on Thursday, May 13.
The town hall began with an introduction by Dara Silberstein, associate professor of women, gender and sexuality studies and instructor of the class. The rest of the town hall featured presentations from multiple student speakers on the topic of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus.
According to Silberstein, the town hall was the result of widespread concern regarding sexual assault on campus among the students in her class.
“The hope for the town hall was to generate awareness about the Husch Blackwell report and the flaws in its research, the findings and the conclusions,” Silberstein said.
The Husch Blackwell report was an independent review of BU’s Title IX policies. Overall, the report did not find any large issues in BU’s current procedures. During the event, however, Priya Pindiprolu, an undeclared freshman, said they observed multiple issues the Husch Blackwell report ignored, such as a lack of counselors and other staff.
“The report does not emphasize that there are systemic problems within the University resources, such as the [Consultation, Advocacy, Referral and Education (CARE)] Team, [Sexual Assault Response Team (SART)] and the Title IX offices,” Pindiprolu said. “In addition, it is unclear how much Husch Blackwell took into account the opinions of student organizations and survivors. It seems probable that most of the findings in the report were heavily influenced by administration members, rather than students.”
After introducing statistics, presenters shared stories from the Instagram account @shareyourstorybing. The account was created with the aim of allowing students to share their stories about rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment they felt have been ignored by the school administration. Stories were shared at the event with the intention of demonstrating how many students felt ignored and frustrated with the administration’s response after they reported the crimes committed against them.
One of the speakers, Christina Nerone, a junior majoring in psychology, said she did not feel the administration’s current practices were enough to aid survivors.
“Statistically speaking as well, the [2020 Annual Security and Fire Report] reports [an average] number of 8.6 rapes per year on campus [for the last three years], but realistically speaking the number could easily be 20 plus if students were being listened to when they went to counseling centers, [Binghamton’s New York State University Police], et cetera,” Nerone said. “By sharing these false statistics, it can be really harmful and invalidating to survivors and make it seem like they are alone in the situation they are currently going through. Clearly, [BU] and [its] administration pride themselves on the image they are portraying, that of providing students with a safe school, resources, et cetera, but in reality that is just a lie that they are projecting on the students and families. Resources on this campus are not made aware to students in any degree. Sexual violence and safety [are] not taken seriously and that provides such a harmful space for students, especially survivors.”
During the event, speakers discussed the current solutions proposed by BU, why they felt like these solutions were not enough and their own propositions. Speakers expressed issues with the lack of support for survivors, inadequate and understaffed campus resources and the lack of comprehensive education for students. Various reforms, such as better sexual assault education and an end to the current model used during orientation, a change of policy to better protect survivors and guarantee that survivors are informed of their rights and more support staff and counselors, were introduced.
Nerone said she wanted the town hall to overall raise awareness about the issue to the administration.
“From this meeting, I personally just wanted to let administration know that there are a multitude of students on campus who are very well aware of [the administration’s] lack of integrity and that there are students who are not afraid to speak up on these issues,” Nerone said. “Administration and the school needed to be made aware that students know the false information that is being publicized by the school, and the students are aware of the lack of initiative the school has taken to make our campus a safer place.”