This ends with us

Brittany Van Pelt, Digital Media Director

The sexual assault forum should have been the beginning steps toward conversations between administrators and students on how to achieve tangible change when it comes to the University and sexual misconduct allegations.

However, instead of using this opportunity to listen to students, the University decided to stick a temporary band-aid on what should be considered finding a long-term solution.

SGA President, Delaney Vandegrift, started the forum with four out of her eleven recommendations her administration has submitted.

Following her, various administrators ranging from the Title IX office to the University Police Department (UPD) came forward and threw statics and definitions at students.

Even during this portion of the evening, conflicting and concerning parts of the policy were being touched with little enthusiasm from the administrators about changing them. Such as there being a “time-frame” for sexual assaults which begins at 8:00 p.m.

It s important to understand the background of how certain policy works because not all of it is solely University mandated and can be changed, but the definition of a forum, per Merriam-Webster is, “a public meeting place for open discussion.”

It shouldn’t take over an hour of a two-hour “forum” for the floor to be open for questions. Students then found that they were only allowed to write their questions on index cards while a moderator read them to the panel.

It was made clear early in the forum that even though this event was made for students, it was to be controlled by the administration.

One of the most commonly asked questions were in regards to the lack of Aggie Alerts when it comes to sexual misconduct reports. UPD Police Chief Wilson was contradictory when it came to his answers.

First, he said students receive alerts depending on the “circumstance.” But, later stated that if a full description is given than an alert is sent to students.

It gives this assumption that a sexual assault crime is not the slightest of relevant to report until it is deemed credible by a committee or UPD which could take, days, weeks, months and even years.

The administration fails to see that the decision to not disclose that there has even been sexual misconduct on campus prevents the study body from knowing about issues that affect their lives.

The forum reached concerning height level for students when a question was asked to the panel of how many open cases they currently have. The answer of 15 not only shocked the crowd but evoked tears into many of the students in the room.

The conversation shifted towards why isn’t my University that I am giving thousands of dollars to not protecting me.

Immediately, alumni and parents in began to speak out and inform the panel that this is not just a student concern.  

Many of the answers the panelist were giving students either completely averted the question or was broad and didn’t have much significance in response.

There was taxing talk of procedure and when questions were raised that the panel could not answer they believed saying that they “weren’t sure” was a justifiable enough answer.

As a student body, we understand that many of the question the administration panel couldn’t answer and take accountability for because it is above their pay grade. If that is the case, why were they sent out to this forum like lambs headed into the slaughter?

The biggest fundamental question that was never answered last night is about the mysterious silence of our Chancellor the past few weeks. There has been no doubt that he has seen what has been going on and still attends to other Universities’ events while students sit and agony and peril at his own.

N.C. A&T can never be rewarded or congratulated for protecting their students when our Chancellor can’t even speak up acknowledge our concerns publicly.

It is unfortunate that it took two brave students sharing their experiences on Twitter for an actual conversation to reach beyond social media and into our reality.

With so much anger, frustration and confusion conveyed throughout the night, many students left feeling like no solutions came from the evening, but they’re wrong.

If anything can be taken from the forum, it is that our student’s voice is powerful beyond measure. If we as a body shake the table and demand change from our administrators, they’ll have no choice but to take note and listen.

So, I challenge my student body. What’s next? How are we going to continue this conversation and make sure it doesn’t fold under the table in a tidy as the University administration thinks.