New School Activist Fights Back Against Misrepresentation

Recently, SAFER gave a training to a number of activists at the New School’s event “The Coming Resurrection” to foster a feminist community at their school. During the training segment, SAFER covered the school’s current sexual violence policy and the attendees identified what they would like to see change. As a result, a group of students decided to work together and start a movement to improve the school’s policy so that it would provide the needs of the students. Even though this group of students came together only late last month, they already have had some obstacles pop up.

Running a campaign is not easy. There are a lot of obstacles and opposition that can come your way from different sides. Dealing with the media can be the bane of any activist; once you tell the journalists your spiel your words are at the mercy of the editing by others, which can quickly lead to the misrepresentation of not only what you said, but your entire movement.  The original group of activists at Columbia ten years ago who are the beginning of what we know as SAFER today learned that all too well.

Recently the activists at The New School had to deal with the school newspaper doing what they felt was not properly covering their event “The Coming Resurrected.” I know what it’s like to be misquoted or misunderstood by school newspaper. That happened to me at Tufts a few years back, but instead of doing what I did – complain but felt like it was useless to correct her – student Suzy Exposito fought back.

In response to the article Feminism Resurrected at New School, Suzy submitted a Letter to the Editor, which clears up misconceptions and mistake she believe was made by the original article. To top it off, she ended with a great message of hope that there can be unity as the movement of feminism and to change the sexual assault policy carries forth.

I believe that these misrepresentations could be avoided if better communications were established between the two parties. This letter serves not just to vindicate our reputation, but to aim towards working together as a more progressive student body that allows for differing opinions, but remains critical of how these opinions are made and presented. I hope that this letter reaches you in the right spirit and that we can all initiate a new era of critical social commentary and action together.

So what can we take away from this besides that this activist seems to know how to handle her business? That even though you can sometimes feel that you are powerless to change how your community is viewing your collective and movement as a whole, you can do something. Part of being an activist is standing up for what’s right and it doesn’t end at direct work towards your cause. Not only can you have control – you need to fight to keep from people getting your movement and mission wrong.

I’m honoured to be able to be the mentor for the students who are working to improve the sexual assault policy at New School and I want to share that SAFER has the tools to help you at your school deal with situations like these! All students that have a SAFER Teach-in are eligible to have an experienced SAFER mentor support them throughout their entire campaign. So if you would ever be faced with something that you may not know how to handle exactly, we are there to help you out.

To learn more about SAFER’s mentoring program for students, AMP! click here.

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