Title IX Coordinator Benje Douglas came to Bowdoin Student Government’s (BSG) General Assembly meeting on Wednesday night to talk about the culture surrounding sexual harassment and assault on campus and answer questions about the resources available to survivors.
Ten sex offenses were officially reported in 2017, according to the federally mandated Annual Security Report, but some have expressed concern over the discrepancy between the true number of incidents and the number of official complaints and reports. Douglas emphasized that the objective of his office is, first and foremost, to support survivors in the manner most appropriate to their individual circumstances and wishes.
“How do we create a community where people feel comfortable here as students?” he asked. “I’m less interested in turning every report into a complaint than in making sure every student is safe.”
BSG plans to sponsor a community forum focused on sexual assault on campus during the spring semester to support making Bowdoin a safe environment for all students.
“A community forum can be a start where we can normalize this conversation and talk openly and hold each other accountable,” said BSG President Mohamed Nur ’19. “BSG can be a part of that process of eradicating sexual assault on campus.”
A wide array of BSG-sponsored events are on the docket in the coming weeks, including today’s campus-wide Town Hall, which aims to address the recent bias events. After reports were made public about a swastika found graffitied on the sixth floor of the Hubbard Hall Stacks, concern over the seeming increase of these incidents has been mounting. The Executive Committee designed the event with a dual goal of facilitating community healing and addressing accountability.
Beginning next week is the annual No Hate November event series, organized by the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. Mamadou Diaw ’20, chair of the committee, explained that the goal of No Hate November is to bring issues of inclusion to the forefront of campus dialogue.
“As a campus community, it is an excellent opportunity to come together and have thoughtful discourse around these challenges that we should not veer away from,” he said. “We should fully engage in these issues.”
A calendar of events for the month’s activities will be posted in David Saul Smith Union next week. Highlights include keynote speaker Dr. Amer Ahmed, who will lecture on Islamophobia and how it intersects multiple social identities, thus creating a necessity for coalition building in the face of discrimination. This year, the Committee for Diversity and Inclusion hopes to build upon the momentum of last year’s successes and reach new levels of student engagement.
“Bowdoin is a busy for everyone, but I really do hope people can find the time to at least explore a few of the events,” said Diaw.
Cultural appropriation in the context of Halloween was also a topic of discussion at Wednesday night’s meeting, following a conversation on the issue a week prior. This week marked the final stage of a campaign to raise awareness of the harms of appropriating another student’s culture for a Halloween costume. College House officers have sent emails with guidelines for appropriate costume choices to their affiliates, and BSG sent a campus-wide email and hung posters around campus.
“A lot of people struggle with the visual, like what exactly cultural appropriation is,” said Developmental Representative to Facilities and Sustainability Rose Warren ’21, explaining the relevance of the poster campaign. “Tying it to the student body emphasizes its effects on people on campus.”