Ohio University Chillicothe students Morgan Bivens, Tessa Byers, Vanessa Chandler and Leah Hollis organized a campus event centered around the issues of consent, sexual harassment and the importance of comprehensive sex education March 22, 2017.
As a part of their activism class, which focuses on teaching students about feminism, long-term activism and strategies for getting things done, the students put together the event stemmed from issues they saw effecting their environments.
Bivens, a junior at OUC who is pursuing a bachelor of specialized studies, wanted to emphasize consent and sexual harassment for her portion of the event.
“It’s just a huge issue,” she said. “I focused on sexual harassment and consent from the beginning of the class because it’s something that needs to be addressed. We’re hoping that people will hear the message and will understand what warrants consent and sexual harassment.”
Byers, who is pre-nursing major, concentrated on sex education and providing a pro-choice advocate for the campus community as her contribution.
“I’m very passionate about bringing
comprehensive sex education to our schools,” she said. “I’m focusing on comprehensive sex education for everyone, to help curtail sexual assault and harassment in the future. Plus, it will good to help lower the STD and unwanted pregnancy rates by having it.”
The event began with the four students hosting a discussion between themselves and their fellow campus members about consent, comprehensive sex education and sexual harassment. For over an hour, the students conversed about various topics, citing research and statistics while breaking down barriers and stigmas for the conversations to take place.
Bivens noted that she hoped the event would do just that, open the door to conversation among students.
“We’re hoping it opens up discussion and makes it a public issue. Right now, it seems to be in the background and just by having the event, it lets people know that this is something we care about,” she said prior to their presentation.
Guest speakers included Dr. Marguerite Hernandez, Assistant Professor of Sociology who presented on the sociological effects of sexual assault and harassment; Ron Edwards, a professor in the law enforcement technology program who discussed the legal ramifications of sexual assault, harassment and consent; and Randi Gregory of NARAL Pro-Choice America, who discussed women’s reproductive rights and legislative challenges in Ohio.
Each guest speaker had one hour to present on their topics and were able to take questions from the audience. Topics included lengthy discussions on what constitutes consent in sexual encounters, defining sexual assault and harassment, the role comprehensive sex education plays in preventing unwanted pregnancies and curtailing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases as well as the role law enforcement’s plays in preventing and or reporting sex crimes.
These discussions were made possible thanks to the Women’s and Gender Studies activism class, in which the four students are currently enrolled.
Professor Debra Nickles explained, “The point [of the activism class] is to identify a local issue in the community that needs attention. Morgan and her fellow students have chosen to sink their energies and creativity into creating a positive change in our campus community by discussing topics of sexual nature that typically don’t get discussed in depth in the classroom. They’ve put a ton of time, energy, intellect, and heart into this project in the hopes of raising awareness about such vital issues surrounding consent, reproductive rights, and improving sex education in Ross county.”
Throughout the rest of the semester, the remaining students in the Activism class will be putting together events similar in scope and nature based around their specific issues. The Activism class was a new course created to conjuring deep analytical thinking and push students to go beyond conversations in an enriching liberal arts fashion with diverse viewpoints and multiple instructors.