The theme of the Window of Opportunity Rally and March. This informal coalition was created last week as a “window of opportunity” to impact town and gown policies and programs to reduce/eliminate sexual assault, stalking, and harassment in our community.
A little over two weeks ago, Penn State University’s Kappa Delta Rho fraternity was suspended by the national fraternity’s office and by the university after it was announced that the State College police were investigating the fraternity for possible criminal activity related to hazing, drug use, and the sexual exploitation of college women though the use of a private Facebook page.
The town and gown are now in an uproar. Once again, the university is in the national spotlight for another instance of sexual misconduct. This time via the use of social media.
So far two rallies have been held protesting the rape culture that pervades this town and campus. One of the rallies was held yesterday. It included a speakout and then a march from the entrance gates of the University Park campus to Fraternity Row where the Kappa Delta Rho House is located.
I was the first speaker at the rally. The following is the written version of my speech. Thank you to Michele Hamilton, NOW Mid-Atlantic Region Board Member, Vice President of Pennsylvania NOW, and President of Ni-Ta-Nee NOW and Marian Bradley, NOW Northwest Regional Director and Past President of Montana NOW for their assistance in putting these ideas together.
Once again, PSU has garnered a national demerit in the public’s view due to allegedly inappropriate sexual misbehavior.
We’re concerned that this mistreatment of women continues to happen in the PSU community.
These actions by KDR have resulted in the appropriate suspension of the fraternity. It also resulted in both police and campus declarations to further investigate what and how this happened. We applaud the University and the national office of KDR for taking these actions. We also applaud the State College police for their pro-active investigation.
We also believe that these types of sexist activities need to be reviewed within the greater milieu of the Penn State environment. This review needs to determine what additional policies and protocols should be implemented to prevent such future acts by members of the community and to hold perpetrators accountable for their misogynistic actions.
The PSU President’s Task Force on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment was charged by President Barron to “[combat] sexual misconduct and to [engage] all employees and students in a direct call to action.” We call on PSU to add this social media bullying type of assaults to this review.
In addition to calling upon PSU to review their policies, we are also asking the public here and across the country to view these actions within the larger scope of online harassment of women. Here’s what we are talking about.
Gamergate. Doxing. Revenge Pornography. Swatting. Posting of pictures of hazing and of nude and unconscious women without their consent. Threats of rape and death via social media. These are all forms of cyber bullying that we have recently heard about across the country. And most of the victims have been women.
In light of these social media attacks, Pennsylvania NOW and Ni-Ta-Nee NOW ( the local NOW chapter) have signed on as organizational supporters of Representative Katherine Clark’s (D-MA) “Dear Colleague” letter sent to her Congressional colleagues in an effort to highlight concerns about gender violence on all forms of social media. This letter, through Congress’ oversight and review process, urges the US Department of Justice to “intensify their efforts to combat cyber stalking, harassment, and threats.”
After the speak-out, we marched to the Kappa Delta Rho House about 12 blocks away. During the march several reporters came up to me for additional comments. One of the reporters –
for the PSU Daily Collegian asked me about the Task Force appointed by President Barron that I mentioned in my speech.
During our conversation, she asked me what I thought of the make-up of the student portion of the oversight committee. She told me that the only two student representatives are a sorority sister and a fraternity brother. No other part of the student community is represented on this task force. I said, “that’s not right. That’s not enough.” She then used part of what I said in the article she wrote:
Joanne Tosti-Vasey, resident of Bellefonte and regional director for the Mid-Atlantic region of the National Organization for Women, said while the task force is a good step, more than fraternity life needs to be looked in to.
“We have students not in greek life who need representation. [Undergraduate students, graduate students, students of color,] LGBTA students and students with disabilities, everyone needs representation,” Tosti-Vasey said. “The task force needs to include people from all of these backgrounds.”
Finally, here are some of the pictures I took at the Rally and March:
The protest started and ended at the entrance gates to the Penn State University. About 50 people participated. These are a few of the signs seen at the rally.
More protesters and signage at the Window of Opportunity Speak Out and March
The youngest protester (three years old) at the rally carried her own sign on the shoulders of her mother. Here she is with her mother Gina Thompson of Bellefonte, PA who is speaking to one of the reporters that covered the event.
After the speak-out, most of the protesters marched about 12 blocks to Fraternity Row to bring our protest to the front door of Kappa Delta Rho, the fraternity whose members created the online Facebook page that is now under investigation for potential criminal activities. Afterward we marched back to the Gates at PSU to wrap up the rally.