Administrators: Grassroots activism to end sexual assaults

By Sam Beard, @SamBeard_DE

Top SIU administrators participated in an open forum Tuesday to urge students to be more active in preventing sexual assault on campus.

The town hall style meeting was hosted by the It’s On Us student task force. The task force is SIU’s chapter of an initiative started last year by President Barack Obama, which aims to end sexual assault on college campuses.

The 11-person panel spoke of a much-needed paradigm shift that changes the way society thinks about and combats sexual assault.


SIU President Randy Dunn said students can put an end to sexual assaults.

“This is not something you can start by administrative dictate,” Dunn said. “This is the type of movement that has to emerge from the grassroots.” 

Andres Lopez, a sophomore from Round Lake studying automotive technology, acknowledged Dunn’s request and said he will bring the message home to his fraternity.

“Student have a big influence on other students,” said Lopez, a member of Phi Iota Alpha. “I will try to influence my [fraternity] brothers to pass it on.” 

Besides stepping up, panelists said ethical behavior is necessary if students seriously want to end sexual assaults on campus.

Katie Sermersheim, interim dean of students, said a paradigm shift is exactly what the university needs. 

“It’s not about the one magic pill [that will end sexual assaults],” Sermersheim said. “But instead it is an entire cultural shift where it’s in the moral fabric of the university. Working together is how we will get through this challenge.”


Another major theme of the evening was consent is sexy and activism is cool.  

“Working throughout the nation are models where student leaders model the new ethic, the new character, the new ethos,” said Melinda Yeomans, SIU Women’s Resource Center coordinator. “Being anti-sexual assault and pro-peaceful campus is cool.” 

Overall, the open forum offered a chance for students to voice their concerns and have their questions answered. 

Nick Roberts, Kelly Meloy and Savannah McCord, the leaders of task force, facilitated the event. Meloy asked students to reach out via Facebook and Twitter to make suggestions on what the group should do next. 

Another administrative panel is planned for the fall semester. 

Sam Beard can be reached at [email protected]