Student Senate and the Ohio University administration came together in an effort to raise sexual assault awareness by putting banners up around campus. 

Kaitlyn Booher, student senate assistant chief of staff and Honors Tutorial College senator, said she initially came up with the idea for the banner project after the number of sexual assaults were reported on campus in the 2018-2019 fall semester. 

The banners will be on light posts around campus for six weeks after the start of the school year, during what is called the “red zone” period. The banners will reappear during spring break, with fest season and sexual assault awareness month also coming soon after. 

The project total was $15,557.20, with Student Affairs spending $11,615.20 and Student Senate spending $3,962. Eva Holtkamp, student senate university life commissioner, and Booher also discussed the 5,000 mirror clings that Housing and Residence Life and senate decided to split the cost for.

Holtkamp said mirror clings were created with information clarifying the difference between resources like SAP, the Ohio University Police Department and the Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance. 

These mirror clings were put in every residence hall bathroom and given out to all sorority and fraternity houses. Housing and Residence Life helped fund this project, which allowed senate to purchase 5,000 mirror clings instead of the original 2,500 that was worked into their budget, Booher said.

With inclusion in mind, Booher said the messages on the banners are translated into six different languages on the back after consulting with the Center for International Studies and several OU professors for translations. 

Those languages are: Cantonese, Spanish, Arabic, Thai, Swahili and Indonesian. 

“Statistically, it was estimated that around 13% of incoming freshmen last year had experienced sexual assault before they arrived on campus,” Booher said.

Booher said she thought it was important to have these banners up in support of survivors as soon as students began arriving on campus.

The Senate worked closely with the administration, specifically Jason Pina, vice president of student affairs, Jenny Hall-Jones, dean of students and Jennifer Kirksey, the president’s chief of staff in bringing this project to life. 

Additionally, senate worked alongside Kimberley Castor, the director of the Survivor Advocacy Program, or SAP, and some members of her team to make sure the language and messaging for the banners. Castor said SAP wanted to provide senate with any information or support regarding the project.  

“We really wanted to emphasize that by supporting survivors, you're supporting all students, because helping to work to eliminate rape culture benefits everyone on the campus, and that mission is genuinely at the heart of it,” Booher said.  

There were difficulties during the creation process because the administration was hesitant about how tour guides would address the banners to prospective students. The issue was alleviated after talking points were created for tour guides, Holtkamp said.

Senate launched another sexaul assault prevention program by creating the Bobcat Safe app.

Students were surveyed across campus to gauge what they wanted to see on the app, and how they could use it.

Administrators also collaborated on the project and were apart of a pilot launch program. The Department of Student Affairs and the Ohio University Police Department helped senate fund the app that costed around $12,000 to create, Zimmerman said. 

The most exciting aspect of the app for Zimmerman was the ability for users to call 911, she said. This service will allow those with severe disabilities affecting communication the option to call 911 and get the help they needed, she added.

She was also motivated by the number of sexual assaults on campus last year, and knew it was time to stand up and take action to support and provide resources to fellow bobcats.

“We may not have the power to control sexual assault,” Zimmerman said. “But collectively, we can stand together, take action with Bobcat Safe and stand together to create conversations on campus. No one should be scared to walk around campus.”