Dickinson College Protests Make Waves (and make the news!)

On Thursday I briefly mentioned the protests going on at Dickinson College, but by Friday the protesting students were getting some major coverage! Both Jezebel and Philly.com ran stories about the students’ demands, which include:

1. Full transparency of the sexual misconduct policy process
2. The Department of Public Safety must send red alerts to the whole campus when sexual assault or rape is reported
3. A stronger administrative stance against sexual assault and rape
4. Expulsion must be the protocol for students found guilty of rape and sexual assault
5. Focus on creating a proactive education-based sexual violence prevention program
6. Specific plans and dates for concrete changes

Perhaps even more inspiring and exciting to read about though was the process students at Dickinson followed in crafting these demands. PennLive reports:

After nearly four years at a school that has pushed their minds, nurtured passions and urged them to “Think Globally, Act Locally,” students consider this effort to be the most important project of their college career.

After the meeting 10 days ago, students researched policy and laws on sexual harassment. They read endless reports and consulted experts. They deconstructed Dickinson’s guidelines. Then they devised a strategy for changing the rules.

Invitations they sent to sororities and other student groups for last week’s open meeting on campus sexual misconduct and violence policies drew 200.

Doing the research: check. Analyzing their policy: check. Reaching out to allies: check. Awesome.

I also really loved how the PennLive article frames the protest as a natural extension of the students’ education. First with the above quote about how the school has pushed them to take action on social justice issues and push boundaries, and then with this quote from one the protesters: “‘How could [Dickinson] not expect [protest]. They’ve been literally training us. Everything we’re doing here, we learned in class,’ she said.”

I think that this isn’t something we don’t focus on enough: college should be a place where we can start to (or for some, continue to) reflect on the systems that govern our lives, how we’re impacted by policies both local and “global,” and think about how to challenge those systems and policies when they are oppressive or unjust (or just plain bad). And you can’t try to foster in students the sense that they have the potential to impact the world they face after college without giving them the space to have an impact on their immediate communities while in college. A lot of folks (ahem, Gawker) like to make fun of college activism and journalism for being silly and inconsequential. But not only do we know that campus policies make a difference, this kind of activism is totally a training ground for the students who are going to leave campus and—yup, I’m saying this—make the world a better place for the rest of us. So I hope Dickinson is proud that their students are taking their lessons from class and putting them into action. They have some work to do on their sexual assault policy, but they seem to be doing a great job in their classrooms.

Cross-posted from Change Happens

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