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The Revolution is On

AmyMay's picture

This web event describes my plans for an activism project, to be completed as my final project for this course, which seeks to change the culture around sexual violence at Haverford.  I've decided to do this web event super early because I want to be able to document my thinking at this stage in the planning process.  I've been working on this for about 2 weeks now, and I want to make sure it is clear how this project ties into the coursework (mostly Judith Butler's work) before I get too far into logistical planning.  I tried getting the video to upload but Serendip isn't having it.  So instead, I made my own youtube channel for my web event, which can be found here.  The web event is presented in three sections, which should be watched in order, from I, to II, to III.  Upon consultation with Kaye, I decided to do Web Event #3 as a video purely because the topic of sexual violence is so personal to me, I did not think I could effectively communicate my plans via written words.  I also find it appropriate to have this information delivered via a conversational video, since the point of my proposed project is to stimulate conversation.  If any of you have feedback or suggestions, please please please voice them.  I'd love to hear any ways to make my ideas better.  Also, if you want to help us poster, we will be postering very late in the evening of Thursday December 1st.  There will be snacks!  Let me know if you're interested, and I'll post the precise times when we figure out what works best for everyone.  


Also, as I mention in the video, below is the current text of the letter to the deans.  I doubt much will be change before we send it out, but it is still in the process of being reviewed by my partners in crime (I would relay their names but I haven't explicitly asked permission.) 


To the Deans and Community of Haverford College:

We, as students at Haverford with a commitment to social justice, cannot continue to ignore the failures of social justice for survivors on this campus. In listening to the stories of student survivors at Haverford, we have come to recognize the failures of our community--both students and administrators--to effect meaningful change around issues of rape and sexual assault. We want to discuss two parts of the issue, procedural and cultural, because both need to be addressed in order to create a community where the values of trust, concern, and respect extend into considerations of sexual violence.

To this end, we call attention to the procedural breakdowns that foster a hostile environment for survivors and their allies. Furthermore, we point to the need for a cultural shift around issues of sexuality, and the potential role of policy change in this shift.

We are especially concerned with classroom dynamics and administrative practices that force survivors to “out” themselves, with non-compliance with laws designed to protect student safety and the rights of survivors, and with a campus culture where getting enthusiastic consent is not the norm.

We call on you, the Deans, to enact the following policy changes:

We call for education to prevent sexual assault before it happens, making sure not to perpetuate myths around sexual assault (e.g., all survivors are women, all rapists are men; alcohol causes sexual violence). We call for use of language that acknowledges agency (“survivor,” not “victim”), particularly in the context of official panels or talks, in academic discussions, and in orientation for incoming freshmen. We call for updates and improvements to all official sexual violence literature. We call for these updates to include: full compliance with the Clery Act and Title IX; survivor-friendly language that does not assume gender; a discussion of other factors involved in sexual assault besides alcohol; and an introduction to enthusiastic consent. We call for a shift in administrative priorities emphasizing the protection of students’ physical and emotional well-being over protection from legal liability. We call for serious, substantial student input in these and other changes to sexual misconduct policies. We call for a new president committed to culture and policy change, as listed but not limited to the above.

We call on you, the faculty and students, to support the following practices:

We call for sensitivity, responsibility, and respect in academic considerations of sexual violence. We call for the use of “survivor” in place of “victim” in discussions of sexual violence. We call for use of “trigger warnings” to make others aware that sensitive issues, such as sexual violence, will brought up in class, readings, or student work. We call for academic discussions of sexual violence that recognize that there may be a survivor present.

We call on you, the community, to commit to the following standards:

We call for protection for survivors from hostile environments. We call for a culture where active bystanders and explicit, enthusiastic consent are the norm. We call for respect for anonymity in both academic and social situations. We call for valued listening to student survivors who wish to share their stories.

We the undersigned urgently call for the above changes and pledge our commitment to effecting justice for all members of the Haverford community.



AmyMay's picture

Postering Thursday Night

Hey guys!  Some of you expressed some interest in helping us put up our sexual assalut awareness posters, so I wanted to give you more deets.  We will be meeting at Haverford's Coop at 11pm this Thursday night.  There will be snacks and tea!  Yum!  We've printed almost 1000 posters, so we can use all the help we can muster!

Amophrast's picture

If you still want posters

If you still want posters distributed/want some on BMC's campus let me know!

AmyMay's picture

Thanks Kaye



Thank you for your comments, they are very helpful.  I feel a lot of what you have said (esp about survivors of sexual violence, including faculty) are what we originally intended in our letter, and will help make this explicit.  I also agree with your point about trust, concer, and respect being necessary for all conserations of sexality.  I forwarded around the comments to the people who are working with meon this to get their feedback as well, and I expect they will share your senitiments.  In regards to the bit about legal liability, that comment is directed more towards the college's fear of civil litigation and private lawsuits.  I believe that by folding at the first threat of a lawsuit (as in the Muppets trial way back when, and with the parent's letter from two years ago) they fail to cultivate the trust or show concern and respect for students who have been through a traumatic incident (whether sexual, racial, or otherwise).    We were more referring to this, rather than the college's need to practice civil disobediance.  Rather, if they were showing true concern for student welfare, they would be more in accordance with civil rights leglation such as Title IX and the Clery Act.  I don't feel that subtley disencouraging survivors to pursue justice by making them aware of the "depth" of the investigation that will occur (so maybe you should just keep quiet), is truely representing their interests.  This sounds a bit too much like implied victim shaming to me.

Kaye's picture

in solidarity

Your campaign speaks powerfully to a vital concern not only for Haverford, but for campuses around the country.  I wanted to share a few questions and thoughts about your letter to the deans and the community:

You have the opportunity in your opening sentence to be even more specific by clarifying that you seek "social justice for survivors of sexual violence...."

While you call on "both students and administrators," I wonder why have you omitted faculty from that list, especially since you hope to change classroom culture.

When I read that you wanted to create "a community where the values of trust, concern, and respect extend into considerations of sexual violence," I was puzzled by the inclusion of the word "violence."  I hope that mutual trust, concern and respect would permeate all forms of sexuality.

I'm curious whether you think that the laws of the state, to which the College is subject, preclude an emphasis on the "protection of students' physical and emotional well-being"?  Would the "shift in administrative priorities" that you are calling for require an act of civil disobedience?  Or, is it possible within existing law to move beyond concerns of legal liability to protect the physical and emotional well-being of all students?

And--one concern--about the blog you plan to create.   I fully appreciate the need for space for anonymous contributions, but it will need someone to monitor the postings so that specific individuals are not "outed" as survivors, passive bystanders, or suspected perpetrators.