It wasn’t too long ago that students on campus were walking with partners at night, little high pitched whistles dangling from their key chains, gripping pepper spray at the passing of strangers. The gossip of sexual assaults on campus was thriving until suddenly it faded to conversations of snowboarding and Christmas break. But the group C.H.A.N.G.E, which stands for Creating, Honoring, Advocating, Nurturing, Gender Equality, certainly hasn’t forgotten about what happened last semester.
Prompted by two reported rapes, more then 20 members of administration, faculty, students and staff, have come together to help fight against sexual harassment on campus. The group was started after the Women’s Issues Club did a presentation on how culture needs to be changed on campus. Linda Olson, a faculty advisor of 12 years and member of the Woman’s Issues Club, is helping to lead the initiative.
“We really needed to make an effort to improve culture education on campus,” said Olson. “We decided as a group that something had to be done.”
C.H.A.N.G.E. is approaching the education of issues regarding rape, harassment, and stalking on campus with responsibility — getting respect and gaining consent. Their goal is to stop assault, improve culture education and to make sexism on campus unthinkable. The group wants to help students refocus on how one gets consent, and discourages against discrimination.
Deb Choma is the nurse on campus, and a member of the C.H.A.N.G.E initiative. She spends a lot of her time talking with students about different medical and social issues.
“I think it’s huge. It’s a group of concerned, dedicated and educated people,” she said. “We are going to take a different approach for a more positive impact.”
The administration has only addressed the public once after the rapes occurred, to say the school was adding cameras and street lights to help students feel safer around campus. After the announcement, students say there has been no follow up telling students if anyone was found as a suspect to the rapes.
And that concerns them. They worry about the lack of communication they were receiving from administration on what they were planning on doing to help prevent these violent situations.
“People preferred ignorance that it didn’t happen here,” said Laura Olson, a junior at Castleton who lives on campus. “I haven’t seen anything being done about it.”
Dallas Lapoint, an officer for Public Safety, believes they are doing their part to keep violence down on campus.
“We have six security cameras recording live action feed, more dispatch and constant coverage,” said Lapoint.
That said, Lapoint is supportive of the initiatives effort for change on campus.
“I think it’s definitely worth while, you need to be open to different ideas,” he said.
The group is now searching for students to be part of their initiative. Male members are especially welcome because studies show that males learn better from other males and are the usual oppressor.
“Their attitudes change more readily when hearing from a peer,” said Linda Olson.
And some males are answering the call. Student Shou Watanabe is one of the recently joined members and is a possible peer mentor.
“Students may feel more comfortable talking about issues because I’m a younger aged college student,” he said. “Or they could not pay attention to the issue.”
Learning of the initiative through an e-mail, Zack Foraur is another male student who believes in male-to-male peer education.
“For some guys, they can be distracted by the person giving them the information and the message can be lost,” said Zack. “Talking to another student makes it seem like you’re not being talked down to or inferior, you’re kinda at the same level.”
Organizers have recently created two paid positions within the group and anyone interested can contact Linda Olson at. The group has already collected some applications from intrigued students that are currently being processed.
C.H.A.N.G.E. meets weekly and will be working together next semester.