Third World Center Perspectives: Sexual Assault and Sarah Kay


Students gather to listen support Justice for Lena & Survivors Everywhere. Click here to listen to Lena Sclove discuss her experience with sexual assault at Brown. Image from Bluestockings Magazine.

Hello and welcome! Our names are Dolma Ombadykow and Olivia Veira. We’re both first years and will be blogging the Third World Center perspective for the Bruin Club blog this year! It’s going to be excellent.

Olivia here! There’s been a lot going on around the Brown community about the University’s handling of sexual assault. It’s a really important topic, especially for all of you prospective students, so we thought we’d share a bit about what’s going on. Every five years, the University is required revise the Code of Student Conduct. The last revisions took place in 2011, so revisions are beginning this year and will be finalized Spring of 2015. The University has been soliciting feedback from students on what they should be especially concerned with while doing revisions. Of particular interest, both at Brown and nationally, is University sexual assault policy. Brown’s current policy concerning sexual misconduct can be found here.

While it is fantastic that the University is revising the policies, there are a lot of problems with current sexual misconduct policies and change is not happening quickly enough. Right now, students may petition to come back to the University after sexually assaulting another student. Although this is not what happens in every case, it is possible and multiple students have experienced this. It is extremely difficult to petition a decision once it has been made by the Student Conduct Board. The University desperately needs to change its disciplinary policies. This change, however, will just be the beginning of some much needed change. Hopefully, the University will increase its emphasis on prevention of sexual assault on campus. Currently, students are required to go to lectures about consent and sexual assault during freshman orientation and there are passive mechanisms to discuss sexual assault on campus. The problem there is that the students who would most benefit from hearing these discussions are not the ones listening. The University needs to change that.

Many students have been gathering to discuss its problems, possible solutions, and urging the University to think critically and be responsive to the community’s requests. Justice for Lena & Survivors Everywhere, the group of students largely leading the discussion, has done some amazing work to mobilize students on the issue. The group was formed in response to one student’s (Lena Sclove) experience with sexual misconduct on campus. You can listen to Lena talk about her experience here.

Justice for Lena & Survivors Everywhere are currently finalizing a set of demands for the University. To support Justice for Lena you can reach out to their self-titled facebook group or the Brown University student’s for sexual assault justice page – Imagine Rape 0. Also, Bluestockings Magazine (a feminist-minded, gender aware, Brown publication) is doing a great series called “Brown Sexual Assault Series,” which you can read if you want to hear some more student perspectives on the issue. When/if you are coming to campus in the fall, it will be an excellent time to engage in crucial discussions about the way sexual misconduct is handled at Universities, and there will be plenty of opportunities to do so.

If you have any questions about Brown’s sexual misconduct policies, please don’t hesitate to reach out to either of us.

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Click to watch Sarah Kay’s TED talk.

Dolma here! Even though we are officially in Reading Period and finals are just around the corner, there is still plenty going around on campus. April is National Poetry Month and as part of the Brown 250th celebration and sponsored by the Office of Institutional Diversity, the Multiracial Alumni Committee, the Women of Color Collective, and many other departments and administrative bodies on campus, Sarah Kay ‘10 came back to campus to perform her spoken word poetry this past Thursday. Sarah Kay began writing and performing spoken word at age 14 and she is best known for her recent TED talk where she recites the poem “If I Should Have a Daughter,” though she has also penned two best selling collections of poetry, No Matter the Wreckage and B, in addition to being the founder of Project Voice. The event was opened by student spoken word poets Chris Tran, Justice Gaines, Pia Brar, and Archipeleg-a’s Krizia Amar, Sarah Day Dayon, Mae Verano, and Mari Bugayong, in addition to local poet Charlotte Abotsi, a student of Sarah Kay’s during her time at Brown.

Kay spoke very fondly of her time of at Brown and recalled that when she was a student at Brown, spoken word was a fairly untouched medium on campus. She explained how when her and her friend and fellow poet Phil Kaye organized a set of performances in Salomon 101 (the biggest performance/lecture space on campus), she was nervous to fill the space. Before the doors opened, she remembered seeing a line out the door and down the length of the Main Green and told us it was the happiest she had ever felt–until this past Thursday, when she was absolutely overwhelmed by the line out the door and down the length of the Main Green waiting to see her. Kay cried and sung, she recited poetry and also answered student’s questions about performance, about making a career out of a hobby, and about what turns her on (the answer? People doing things they’re passionate about, when she sees someone doing what she knows they were born to do).

As always,

Olivia & Dolma



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