MU signs on to take ‘It’s On Us’ pledge

‘It’s On Us,’ the national campaign for sexual assault prevention, will branch off of ‘Enough is Enough’ under MSA president’s leadership.
Dakota Downey helps another student take the "It's On Us" pledge Thursday, March 5, 2015, at the Student Center in Columbia, Mo.

MU has signed on to the national “It’s On Us” campaign under Missouri Students Association President Payton Head’s leadership.

“It’s On Us” is a sexual assault prevention initiative headed by President Barack Obama specifically aimed at college campuses. The White House sent guidance to every college that receives federal funding and created the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault to help develop methods on how to respond and prevent sexual assault, according to its website.

MSA decided to end “Enough is Enough,” the sexual assault campaign from last year headed by former MSA President Kelsey Haberberger and former Vice President Matt McKeown. They immediately switched to “It’s On Us” instead of making a slow transition to avoid any confusion among students.

“When I got into office, it seemed like ‘Enough is Enough’ was fizzling out and needed a recharge,” Head said. “We learned of the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign and I thought it would be a great pledge for Mizzou to take. They’re similar campaigns but ‘Enough is Enough’ served its purpose. It’s a new semester and a new year, so we are looking to brand this campaign as ‘It’s On Us’ that has national guidelines.”

They hope that by joining a national campaign, MU will become a part of a culture change instead of just focusing on this campus.

“If you want to make a change culturally, you have to hope for solidarity,” Director of Student Services Samantha Franks said. “To be a part of the national campaign, we are joining in on something that’s trying to change the culture of the country. We’re not only trying to protect ourselves as Mizzou students, but as citizens of the world.”

MU is joining 200 other schools across the country that have adopted “It’s On Us.” A national campaign will bring increased name recognition and nationwide support, campaign coordinator Katherine Harbinson said.

“We need to be standing in solidarity with everyone else who’s signed the pledge,” she said. “As a large institution, it’s something we have a responsibility to stand with.”

When she and Franks brought the idea to Head and the rest of the executive cabinet, everyone was supportive, Harbinson said.

“This speaks volumes as to the kind of people we have in this community,” she said. “It says a lot that we have people who care and are willing to stand up for something and we have people who are so passionate about the work that they’re doing.”

Harbinson worked with Franks to plan the kickoff event, which was held in the MU Student Center on March 5.

At the event, there were laptops stationed around the student center to recruit students to take the pledge. Speeches were given by Head and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs. There were resource tables from the MU Counseling Center and the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center also present.

Franks is also working on creating posters, buttons, shirts and other visible ways to publicize the campaign. She said she hopes to put posters in the residence halls next semester so freshmen will know immediately about this campaign. She said by knowing about the available resources, people can better educate themselves on sexual assault prevention and awareness.

“We want to make this campaign really visual so even if you don’t attend a program, you’ll know about it and see it everywhere,” Franks said.

In the upcoming months and next semester, “It’s On Us” will be hosting more education-based events.

At an institution of higher learning, when students take the pledge they’re taking the initiative to learn about this issue, Head said.

“The biggest thing is realizing it’s on them,” he said. “It’s on all of us to make sure we have a safe campus for all genders here.”

Harbinson and Franks are planning future events as part of this campaign. So far, they have planned to have “It’s On Us” host a Title IX panel sometime in April for sexual assault awareness month. This panel will discuss what Title IX is, how to use the Title IX Office and information about sexual assault.

On April 18, the campaign is hosting a conference with student leaders across the state to discuss different methods of preventing sexual assault and brainstorming ideas. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., will give a speech that will be open to the entire campus.

Even though MSA is spearheading the initiative, Head said it will collaborate with many student organizations and administrators to emphasize that the initiative is campus-wide, not just run by one group of students.

Students need to know the entire school at every level is involved, from athletes to Greek Life to Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, Head said. MSA will also maintain a close relationship with the RSVP Center in many of its endeavors.

“We’ve worked with administrators to make sure we have a campaign that reaches out uniformly to everyone,” Franks said. “Not only having campus culture, but having the administration that supports the campus culture is really important to us.”

The Green Dot program, a tool used to train students on how to be an active bystander in situations where there is a victim of assault, harassment or sexual violence, will also play a huge role in this campaign.

“It’s On Us” hopes to promote this program to help students incorporate active prevention into their everyday lives. This will help stress the importance that it is everyone’s responsibility to create a safer campus, Harbinson said.

One of Head’s goals is for MU to become an example for other schools in sexual assault prevention.

“It’s time for Mizzou to stop following behind and try to see what other schools are doing and create our own initiative and programs we feel passionately about,” Head said. “Other schools will probably sign on soon and will be looking to Mizzou as a model in how to adopt it and how to sustain it.”

Ideally, in the future, a need for prevention and awareness programs will cease to exist, Head said.

“There are so many well-intentioned people and people with good hearts who truly care about making this campus safer for all identities,” he said. “There’s so many people who express their support and want to get involved. Many of us know somebody who’s been a victim. One day I would love to get to a point where this wasn’t a thing at all.”

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