In response to alleged sexual harassment within the music department, about a dozen students staged a sit-out in front of Irion Hall on Wednesday, September 12.
In an effort to bring forth stricter Title IX training for faculty, female students and their allies sat outside of Irion Hall, which is home to the music department, for the duration of the school day.
In the flyer that was handed out during the sit-out, the students explained their reasoning for the protest. It said, “The educational and professional environment of the women of Irion Hall has been compromised by systematic crude behavior exhibited by male professors.”
It also stated “Vulgar language, sexist jokes, and inappropriate comments marginalize [women] and make the environment of the Music Department an impossible place to reach our full potential.”
Despite repeated attempts, Peter Griffin, chair of the music department, declined to comment.
One of the supporters at the sit-out, senior Andrea Figueroa, said that she no longer felt safe within the halls of Irion.
“Our music department and our music building is our safe haven, but if professors are doing this to students, then Irion Hall is no longer that safe haven,” said Figueroa.
According to Jess Brooks, the senior music education major who organized the sit-out, this issue has been going on for a while.
“For a long time the educational environment, in not only the music department, but really the whole school, has been compromised by some inappropriate behaviors happening,” said Brooks. “There has been language use that is not classroom appropriate, and this has marginalized the women in the department specifically.”
Brooks and her supporters are calling for major change.
“Here, the Title IX training is insufficient,” said Brooks. “There’s an online training that goes out in an e-mail. A professor shared with me that they had not completed the Title IX training this year because they simply forgot, and nothing happened.”
Title IX training is an interactive online course used to teach students, faculty, and staff how to properly approach situations of harassment, sexual assault, and disclosure within the campus community.
While there were many students who support this sit-out, there were also a number of students who opposed it. Those students declined to comment on the issue.
Faculty have already begun to try and resolve this issue. The sit-out has led to conversations to improve the matter.
April Edwards, vice president for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty, said that this type of information is important to know.
“The negative and uncomfortable atmosphere for women is of concern, so we are looking at different options for training faculty and staff,” said Edwards. “I think it’s really important that students bring these things to our attention in a way that is solution oriented, which is exactly what Jess [Brooks] did in this case.”
Edwards revealed that she and Griffin had a conference with Brooks to go over possible ways of bettering the issues taking place within Irion.
“They’re making sure they talk to all of the professors to make sure that those types of behaviors are not happening in class, and also we are going to continue the discussion on how to improve training for things like appropriate behavior.”
“There’s no easy fixes, but we have to continue to make progress,” added Edwards.
Brooks made clear that the sit-out was one that was harmonious in nature.
“This is simply a peaceful gathering to unite the marginalized and those who want to stand in solidarity with the people affected by this behavior,” continued Brooks. “It’s peaceful, it’s non-aggressive, it’s uniting, and it’s calling for a cultural change.”
“It’s not just about one instance that takes place; it’s about an entire culture that allows those instances to take place constantly,” concluded Brooks. “It’s 2018. This is a really sensitive issue, especially right now with everything that’s been going on.”