UW Students Organize Walk Out, Ask for Action on Campus Sexual Assault
A number of University of Wyoming students held a walk out on Monday to call for administrative action on sexual assault on the UW campus.
Students were invited to leave their morning classes at 10:30 a.m. and meet in front of Simpson's Plaza, where students held signs that relayed information and statistics regarding sexual assault and sexual misconduct. The walk out comes after campus police reported that a sexual assault occurred in a UW parking lot earlier this month. According to the email sent out to the UW community, a UW student was tackled and sexually assaulted in the East Stadium parking lot the night of Friday, Nov. 10.
An organizer of the walk out and UW student, Peytin Fitzgerald said the event was to support survivors of sexual assault and to call attention to the university's handling of the issue.
"The whole reason for the event was to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault," Fitzgerald said. "A few of my peers have been assaulted and gone through the University to report their assault. They weren't treated the way that they needed to be. A lot of the way the they are viewed plays into rape culture in America, and that's a huge issue."
A petition was also passed around for walk out participants to sign. Fitzgerald said the petition outlined a number of things they felt the university should do, such as more lighting on campus, a more proactive university police force, more emergency buttons across campus and changing the protocol email the university sends out after an assault to focus more on what happens when a person commits assault, rather than how not to be assaulted.
The petition was walked across campus at about 11:15 a.m. and hand-delivered to UW President Laurie Nichols.
Associated Students of UW President Ben Wetzel attended the walk out and he said the organizers met with Nichols before the event and had the opportunity to meet with her and talk about some of their concerns. Wetzel said while he was not at the meeting, it was his understanding that it was productive.
"She [Nichols] kinda brought them up to speed on a lot of the efforts that are happening in the No More campaign committee," Wetzel said. "The No More Task Force was started last November, we've been up and running for just about a year now. It's one of the, arguably, from my perspective, the biggest and most diverse task forces we have as far as representation from athletics and all across campus and staff and students and faculty."
Wetzel said that task force had many subcommittees who look at specific aspects of preventing sexual assault on campus, such as policies, data and education. Wetzel said Nichols invited the students to attend the next 'No More' task force meeting to present their requests and start a discussion.
Fitzgerald agreed that the meeting went well and said the fact they were invited to the next 'No More' meeting made it feel like their voices were being heard. She said she and the other organizers made sure to emphasize that the walk out was not an attack on her or the university, but focused on sexual assault survivors.
"I think that whenever students are concerned about their safety and their well-being and their presence on this campus, I think it's something that administrators, students, staff, faculty, anyone can take seriously and engage in," Wetzel said. "If students aren't comfortable for any reason, it's something those of us in representative positions need to listen to."
Fitzgerald said she and others involved in the walk out will attend the next 'No More' meeting.