Ambassadors to the Survivor Advocacy Program, or ASAP, are taking steps to support survivors in light of events surrounding Faculty Senate and Yusuf Kalyango, an Ohio University journalism professor found responsible for sexually harassing two students.
Maddy McFadden, ASAP president and a senior studying English-creative writing, said ASAP responded to the original recommendation that Kalyango be reinstated as a full professor with tenure by saying the group believes all survivors. After Faculty Senate recommended to the Board of Trustees to disregard that decision, ASAP’s focus shifted.
“Our focus is shifting to keep the pressure on the Board of Trustees since they have the final decision,” McFadden said.
McFadden said ASAP is hoping to collaborate with other student organizations to figure out creative ways to be visible to the Board of Trustees.
“I think the situation is important and it's also brought to light how issues in cases of sexual misconduct are handled by the university,” McFadden said. “It's also given us the opportunity to kind of discuss that and think about how we can make changes while we’re here and this is in the spotlight.”
Olivia Gemarro, a student ambassador for ASAP and a senior studying English and sociology-criminology, said while ASAP would like to have a rally, it won’t be happening “anytime soon” due to COVID-19 restrictions.
McFadden said ASAP is trying to use the Kalyango situation to remind students of the resources available on campus that the organization provides. ASAP is also going to continue to use social media to connect with students and continue to attend Student Senate and Faculty Senate meetings.
Gemarro also said it was frustrating to ask questions at the Faculty Senate meeting due to its virtual format.
“We already feel disconnected from school right now,and worse when there's an issue like this happening and we're not given a clear cut platform upon which we're on a level playing field,” she said. “It very much felt like a us versus them environment.”
There has been an increased number of students looking to join ASAP since the Faculty Senate decision was made public, and McFadden said it was nice to see the solidarity between different organizations in condemning sexual misconduct.
The Survivor Advocacy Program, or SAP, also released a statement in light of the new developments in Kalyango’s case.
“The Survivor Advocacy Program continues to stand with survivors and recognizes the importance of having a safe, confidential space for survivors to receive support and to be believed,” Kimberly Rouse, SAP director, said in an email. “We are constantly reminded of the importance of holding space for survivors and we will continue to show up each and every day in support of our Bobcat survivors. Ohio University students can schedule a virtual meeting with a survivor advocate using the link here: https://www.ohio.edu/survivor/about-sap/advocates.”
McFadden said providing resources and information to students is ASAP’s goal.
“Our priority has been to just keep it in the forefront - SAP’s information - and that if you're struggling with the news or just need to talk to someone, you can reach out to SAP and utilize those resources,” McFadden said. “I know that because of the graffiti wall we did and our message on social media, that has happened.”
Gemarro said she saw not only ASAP gaining momentum for its cause but others speaking up about Kalyango’s tenure status as well.
“We've always known that sexual violence is a really big issue at universities across the nation, but it's really nice to see people step up in our community and say that they want to do something actively in their student lives to hopefully change that on some kind of level,” Gemarro said.
McFadden said she thinks the amount of transparency regarding information about sexual misconduct and investigations needs to be improved. ASAP is trying to work toward those changes, she said.
“I think that it's just hard because there's things going on simultaneously, like budget cuts, and I think something that needs to happen is that the … administration that's in charge of protecting survivors in the aftermath and also preventing sexual misconduct from happening on campus, those positions need to be filled at all times,” McFadden said.
Gemarro said it’s reassuring to know ASAP has the opportunity to provide support for survivors and make sure they’re being heard, and she hopes to see a crackdown on inappropriate behavior in the future.
“Depending on what happens with Kalyango, that will heavily influence the politics at OU and the internal workings of how situations like this are handled,” Gemarro said.
Gemarro said ASAP wants to make sure it continues to advocate for students and survivors the way it always has. Personally, she said she was “disgusted” at the Faculty Senate committee recommendation for Kalyango to be reinstated as a professor and the university’s response.
“I can't even imagine being put in that position by somebody I'm supposed to trust to educate me and better me as a person,” Gemarro said. “So, for other professors to just look away from the reality of this is really disgusting, and I really hope that they have learned something from this, and have seen … their decision says so much.”