Students join forces in support of university policy change

Advocates encourage students passing through Bosco Student Plaza on April 27, 2016, to sign the petition to change the policy that will allow the Office of Institutional Equity to investigate off-campus sexual assaults. (Jessica Robbins | The Collegian)

On April 20, Sara Weckhorst and Tessa Farmer, juniors in social work, each filed a lawsuit against K-State on allegations that the university refused to investigate their rape cases, as they occurred off campus at fraternity houses. In addition to the recent Title IX lawsuits, K-State now faces petitions from students, requesting a change in its off-campus investigation policy.

After K-State’s Interfraternity Council passed a resolution supporting a change in the school’s policy Monday, some of its members joined Feminists Igniting Resistance and Empowerment to gather signatures on a petition for university policy change at a sexual assault and rape awareness rally held in Bosco Student Plaza Wednesday afternoon.

Lain Littlejohn, president of FIRE and senior in animal sciences and industry, said she believes a conversation regarding the policy is an important one that university leaders need to have with those it affects, such as students, parents and faculty. Littlejohn said she feels especially passionate about this issue, as she was sexually assaulted at her residence hall during her freshman year at K-State.

“We are collecting signatures on a petition to let the school know we’re very adamant about making sure that those things off campus are investigated because the perpetrator and the survivor are both students and they’ll both be in the space at school, so it needs to be dealt with,” Littlejohn said.

Together, FIRE and the IFC managed to collect about 200 signatures on their petition, Littlejohn said.

There is also an online version of the petition that was sent out to potential supporters, which acquired 100 signatures Tuesday night in about five hours, Zach Lowry, IFC president and junior in political science, said.

The group End Rape on Campus has also been helping students support this policy change on social media with the hashtag #KStateInvestigate, Lowry said.

“I think it is up to the students whether they keep ignoring it,” Lowry said. “(As) people start showing that they care, and they come out and support the policy change and look at #KStateInvestigate on social media and become informed, I think everyone will be on our side. The petition is to show them that people do care and that they want this change.”

Members of K-State’s chapter of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity also joined the group of student voices petitioning for change Wednesday, hanging a banner that reads, “Better men take no for an answer,” across the front of their chapter house. The phrase on the banner was modeled after some ideas from the national sexual assault prevention campaign, It’s On Us, according to Mario Garcia, Delta Sigma Phi president and sophomore in family studies and human services.

“I’m not sure if we can really call it a type of campaign, but it is just a bold statement because being silent at a time like this is just as bad as saying it’s OK,” Garcia said. “It’s kind of starting off with us here, but it’s something that we hope other fraternities on campus and across the nation can really implement in their own lives and kind of go off from there.”

The current state of K-State’s policy is not in accordance with its core values, said Dominique Robinson, former Delta Sigma Phi president and senior in family studies and leadership.

“I would say that it’s not the K-State way,” Robinson said. “It’s just really depressing because K-State does so many great things, but this could really hurt that phrase, ‘K-State family,'” Robinson said.

The fraternity’s statement is not only a message to university leaders, but also a step toward changing the way fraternities educate their members about sexual assault and sexual assault prevention, Robinson said.

“Other fraternities don’t have to put a banner on their house or anything like that, but I think the common goal that we need to understand and think about is that we don’t accept people who do this into our organizations,” Robinson said.

K-State responded to the news of student petitions through a special alert email sent to students from K-State Today.

“University administration responds to student concerns about the university’s discrimination policy, PPM 3310, and sexual violence,” the message said. “These issues are critically important, and we want to be on same page with our students, faculty and staff.”

Robinson said educating not only fraternity members, but everyone at K-State, about sexual assault is one way to help ensure that students and the university as a whole are willing and able to speak out against it.

“We just don’t want to be silent,” Robinson said.

Hey there! I'm Danielle Cook. I'm currently a freshman in journalism and mass communications. I live for telling true stories, so I hope to be doing it for the rest of my life. Luckily, I also live for late nights and early mornings – as long as there's coffee and I'm in good company.