On Monday, April 25, more than a hundred men and women from Connors State College gathered on the Warner campus to rally against sexual violence and Take Back the Night.
The evening began in the Fine Arts Auditorium with a few videos about consent addressing the real statistics of sexual assault, which in the end packed a powerful punch.
Dr. Julie Dinger, Interim Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs – Assessment & Curriculum, led the event. Dinger spoke of the statistics and talked about how a college campus should be a safe place. Dinger introduced other guest speakers for the evening, including: Dr. Tim Faltyn, President of Connors State College, Dr. Ron Ramming, Sr. Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs, Mike Jackson, Dean of Students, Campus Police Chief James Mendenhall, Perry Keith, Baseball Head Coach, Bill Muse, Mens Basketball Head Coach, Jamie Fisher, Womens Basketball Head Coach, and Jake Lawson, Head Rodeo Coach.
Each spoke to a similar tone; the dangers of sexual assault are very real and the men and women of Connors State College are held to a high standard. The coaches told life stories and lessons they had learned in their time, stating these actions are never acceptable and if witnessed the individuals are encouraged to say something, and no matter what they will believe them.
Numerous faculty and staff members in attendance had written short messages on their palms reading “Tell me”, I believe you, and You can trust me, among others, sending a powerful message to those in attendance.
At the core of events like this, its about teaching us all how to address the problem proactively, we experienced a shift in focus among students, faculty, and staff toward looking out for one another and feeling empowered to speak up when something is wrong, said Dinger.
After, Dinger and an outstanding support team rallied the eager men and women as they decorated signs, banged drums and marched through the campus in protest of sexual assault.
We had students from all walks of life chanting, carrying signs, and beating their buckets in support of safety for our campus and community, it was fantastic, said Dinger. We are helping to change the conversation when it comes to safety for all people into a proactive rather than reactive approach to sexual assault. Our students, faculty, and staff spoke boldly and clear in a single voice; sexual assault is unacceptable and even one victim is too many.
Dinger said raising awareness about safety is incredibly important for all of the students, and sexual assault is a problem which is hard for everyone to grapple with.
Sexual violence is a topic which is uncomfortable and difficult to discuss, but now more than ever we have to speak out to empower survivors and prevent further violence, said Dinger. We only have our students for two years before they transfer to a university, or enter the workforce, we have a limited window to reach our students and teach them the tools to protect themselves and others.
Along with the march through campus a Concert for Consent was set up in the parking lot behind the Fine Arts Auditorium. The Austin Cobb Band, a local Red Dirt band from Tahlequah, performed on the stage and Student Life staff provided the rally members with hotdogs and drinks.
The organizers of the event worked hard to make sure this nights program would strike a positive chord in the face of such a negative social problem, said President Faltyn.
Jackson said he feels everyone involved did a great job spreading the message and truly believes the participants involved, and everyone in attendance, got a lot out of the days events.