On March 27, The Student Printz published an issue a dedicated to the reported sexual assault that occurred on USM’s campus.
This edition included police reports, a letter to the editor and a response from the Vice President for Student Affairs Thomas Burke. The release of this edition caused the normally quiet atmosphere of our campus to stir, with students voicing concern, opinions and outrage from both sides of the matter.
As throngs of students took to social media to voice their concerns, one particular post stood out to me personally. The Facebook post, written by USM junior Benjamin Luckett, said:
“Due to a recent news article, letters written to the Student Printz, and events that occurred last semester, I felt the need to reveal what I will be doing next semester,” Luckett said. “You may or may not know this, but I am a Campus at Large Senator for USM (surprise!) and I will be working on passing legislation towards the reshaping of how the university educates its students on sexual assault, harassment and alcohol.
“I will also be working very close to our Title IX Office on campus; I plan to focus on (among other things) reaching out to students about this resource that handles sexual misconduct cases and hopefully I will be surveying the student population as well.”
Luckett will graduate at the end of his senate term with a degree in communication studies with a minor in sociology. He will also be serving on the 2017 – 2018 Southern Style team. He’s also a part of USM’s Concert and Men’s Choir.
I sat down with Luckett this past week to unpack what he expects to bring to USM and how exactly he plans to do it.
When you first meet Luckett, you notice something about him – you’re just not sure what it is yet. As you get to know him, you realize that you’re not just speaking with another student. Instead, you’re speaking with a gentleman who genuinely cares about USM.
As we talked about what he plans to do, I learned that sexual assault education was on his mind long before any police reports were released.
“I ran for senator with the platform of sexual assault education,” Luckett said. “I had some friends that encouraged me to run [for Senate], and really I just wanted to run so I could campaign. Now I’m here – now I’m going to do something with it.”
Luckett’s proposed legislation focuses on bringing more sexual assault education to students. This spans from teaching students what actions could be perceived as assault and educating students on the resources available to survivors of assault.
One may wonder why USM has not already put educational materials on such “misconduct” in front of its students. The answer is simply that they have, but it is not enough.
Currently, all new students must complete a program through Workplace Answers. The material covered in the modules includes sexual assault, harassment, bullying and alcohol. The problem is that students skip through it, and no one retains it.
“We need something more extensive,” Luckett said.
What would Lucketts’s approved legislation look like? Students would attend a series of lectures, training sessions and classroom environment learning experiences in which they would learn what sexual harassment is and its various forms. Luckett said that the more we put the information in front of students, the more likely they will be to retain it.
“One in four women on campus get assaulted, and that’s just the statistics we have from those that report it,” Luckett said. “They could report it the night it happened or months later.” There is a gap where we need to educated students not just on prevention, but on the proper steps to take after to ensure justice; as well as how the University handles sexual misconduct cases, and even what the Title IX Office is for.
“All this information is out there, but we need to know how to best get it into the hands of the student’s – that’s where the lecture comes in,” Luckett said.
Luckett, along with other students, will officially begin his senate term later this semester. He will be working closely with the Title IX coordinator and his fellow senators to ensure this is something that best serves USM, to ensure it is something that will best serve us.
*Students wishing to voice opinions, comments or concerns can contact him at Benjamin.firstname.lastname@example.org