The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Assault pledge finds support

| Wednesday, February 5, 2014

In an effort to increase awareness of sexual violence and to promote dialogue, representatives of student government’s “One is Too Many” campaign recently went door-to-door in residence halls, asking students to sign a pledge to stand up against sexual violence.

“In total, we had 142 people who went around the dorms,” student body president Alex Coccia said. “They collected 2,816 signatures, and then the people who indicated they would want to be involved in a larger way were 1,147,” he said. “Of the on-campus students that we attempted to reach, that’s about 45 percent.”

Coccia said this was the first door-to-door student government issue campaign of which he is aware.

“Our goal was about 40 percent because this was a one-time, door-to-door, and without really a follow-up immediately, it’s inevitable that you miss people who aren’t in the dorm or aren’t around,” he said. “And this number doesn’t include the number of people who have since signed a pledge to hang outside their door, but whose name we didn’t receive. It’s higher, at this point, in terms of the number of pledges actually signed.”

Student body vice president Nancy Joyce said the representatives who led the campaign were encouraged to focus on the pledge itself.

“[The pledge] functions as the centerpiece of the campaign and is something that we thought just about everybody on campus can get behind and support. That’s something that we can each individually commit to,” she said. “That was the talking point for all the conversations, the pledge. Then depending on the dorm, depending on the individuals, the conversations were all a little bit different.”

Joyce said the students that the campaign reached widely supported the pledge.

“Even people who felt they still had some questions, they felt they could sign the pledge because it is something that as an individual you can take ownership of and support,” she said.

Coccia and Joyce said both male and female dorms had high levels of participation in the campaign.

“I think we got a lot of positive feedback across all the dorms,” Joyce said. “We were very pleased with the kind of feedback we got from men’s halls. It was honest feedback, and I think in situations where people were engaging in conversation there was good conversation to be had. If anything, in all the dorms now where these pledges are hanging up, that’s a very powerful symbol in men’s and women’s dorms that people are supportive on this issue.”

Joyce said though students were widely receptive to signing the pledge, many of the students who went door-to-door expressed frustration at not being able to spark deeper conversation.

“One common thing they said was that while they were able to present the pledge and get positive support for it, this wasn’t conducive to meaningful conversation,” she said. “And students who were answering their doors often said their biggest complaint was that this wasn’t something that really got to the heart of conversation.

“We knew from Day One this wasn’t going to be something where you’re going to sit for an hour and really delve into a discussion. I think that’s probably really how we’re going to tailor the next steps. We’re going to try to create spaces for conversation on a deeper level.”

The results of the campaign have provided guidance for student government’s next actions, Coccia said.

“Getting feedback from the campaign and looking what threads have emerged and what needs there are that we could really address in these next few months,” he said. “One is working with survivors to tell their story. Again, this is an effort to make it a much more personal issue on campus.”

Coccia said this first step will be followed by a second and third. He said the second step will be an effort to get male students to become active rather than passive when in the position of bystanders.

“The third is to make sure that the conversations aren’t segregated by dorm, that we’re actually having mixed gender conversations about this issue,” he said.

Tags: , , , ,

About Catherine Owers

Senior News Writer Catherine Owers is a senior from New Orleans, Louisiana. She is studying English and Theology.

Contact Catherine