'It's On Us' campaign to begin Oct. 23
An initiative started by the federal government in 2014 to combat sexual assault will have its fall "week of action" hosted by the Associated Students of Michigan State University in two weeks.
According to its website, the "It's On Us" program began in response to a White House task force charged with gathering information on ways to prevent sexual assault. The program focuses heavily on bystander intervention and education students on the meaning of consent.
The program claims that ending campus sexual assault lies in the hands of more than just students.
“It’s clear the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses impacts all of us," the website reads. "Preventing sexual violence on campus takes more than one student, staff member, professor, administrator, team, club, office, or department. It takes all of us working together. Everyone can play a role in prevention by creating a culture of safety, equality, and respect on campus."
ASMSU vice president for academic affairs Ewurama Appiagyei-Dankah has helped to organize MSU's "It's On Us National Week Of Action." She believes it's an important program for the university community to participate in.
“I think it’s super important just because sexual assault is such a huge issue on college campuses, and we have so many people who are advocating so passionately for survivors on our campus," Appiagyei-Dankah said. "But there’s always more that we can do, and I think this week is a great way to get the idea in people’s heads that these are issues they should care about, and issues that they should learn about, and it’s really important for them to be as educated on this as possible and be supportive to people on our campus who have gone through this.”
Appiagyei-Dankah highlighted some of the events that will be held next week, including activities at The Rock and a Student Leadership Institute to be held on Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. featuring speaker Alan Berkowitz, who will teach attendees how to intervene if they see something troubling.
“We will be painting the rock, I believe this is going to be on Wednesday, and then on Wednesday evening from 6-8 at the Union," Appiagyei-Dankah said. "We’re going to be hosting a pledge drive, and we’re getting people to sign a pledge to say that they will support survivors, be sure to educate themselves about what it’s like to be a bystander, and also be sure to learn and promote the idea of affirmative consent.”
According to itsonus.org, affirmative consent is explained further.
"Consent is voluntary, mutual, and can be withdrawn at any time,” The "It's On Us" Affirmative Consent Discussion Guide reads.
Organization president Lorenzo Santavicca said the program is supported by more than just ASMSU.
“So, ASMSU has led “It’s On Us” on Michigan State University’s campus for many years," Santavicca said. "We have been doing this routinely for a long time and what happened about last year, we partnered more or less with university partners like the Title IX office, and we found partners through other organizations like COGS, RHA, University Activities Board, and together we have made this a whole campus effort, and this year we got the community of East Lansing, so East Lansing city council, to recognize this fall week of action."
Santavicca also said ASMSU hopes the program will lead to an ongoing discussion throughout the campus and city that lasts longer than the week of programming.
“This is the biggest campaign that we get around now as a campus to bring awareness to educate students about sexual assault prevention," Santavicca said. "It is very effective in my opinion at least that we’re able to have the conversations all week long and hopefully leading into the rest of the semester about what we’re doing on campus to end sexual assault.”
The program was started during former President Barack Obama's second term and spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden. Appiagyei-Dankah says the current political administration has made her more personally invested in its success.
“I don’t think the university in any way has changed its own things, but for me personally it means even more just because I know that we are in a time that seems pretty hostile to survivors, and that can be really frustrating," Appiagyei-Dankah said. "So, I think it’s even more important during these times that we take the lead in saying, ‘Hey, this is not something that’s acceptable on our campus. It’s never acceptable, and we won’t take it from any level from all the way up to every single last student we have on the campus.’”
Activities related to the "It's On Us National Week of Action" will begin on Monday, Oct. 23 and will run through Friday, Oct. 27.