Summer conferences helped MSA learn about diversity and sexual assault prevention

MU was the only university to have two representatives at the Project InSiGht conference in Israel.

Members of the Missouri Students Association attended two leadership conferences over the summer. After attending the President’s Leadership Summit and Project InSiGht, they were able to bring back more knowledge on how to promote the It’s On Us campaign and on Israel-Palestine relations.

The President’s Leadership Summit, Washington, D.C.

Missouri Students Association President Payton Head and Vice President Brenda Smith-Lezama visited the White House from May 30 to June 1 for the annual National Leadership Summit, which is put on by the National Campus Leadership Council.

It was MSA’s first time at the conference, which had about 150 student body presidents representing 120 schools and 1.5 million students, according to the National Campus Leadership Council Facebook page.

Head led a workshop on diversity and inclusion for the other participating student body presidents. Head said it was a big part of what they spoke about along with college affordability along with the national sexual assault prevention campaign, It’s On Us.

Head was part of a panel with the Assistant Secretary of Civil Liberties, the Ohio State University student body president and the national director of It’s On Us. Head represented the university and talked about what MSA has been doing with the campaign.

Head said student leaders have had trouble creating programs to promote the campaign on campus.

“We want to increase the visibility of It’s On Us,” Smith-Lezama said. “It has been very difficult with all of the campaigns on campus, especially those directed at sexual assault.

Smith-Lezama said they were able to develop a working relationship with the White House to help establish some guidelines for the campaign.

“Brenda was straight up honest,” Head said. “She said there are a lot of things that we can do at Mizzou to work on making our campaign better. But what we need is the help of the national campaign, the national office and the White House, so we can actually have something that the student leaders can use to make their campaigns successful.”

MSA is planning a relaunch of It’s On Us this semester in a couple of weeks. MSA plans to hang posters in the dining halls so students can see leaders taking the pledge and advocate in the Student Center. They will show a free screening of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about the way sexual assault cases are handled on U.S. college campuses, on September 17 at 7 p.m. in Jesse Auditorium.

“We have a lot of stuff coming up,” Smith-Lezama said. “Basically we want to make sure we are not only doing things that are going to be effective internally, because a lot of MSA knows what’s going on with It’s On Us. We need to reach out to the student body, and it’s really hard when it is a message that is so sensitive.”

Head said one of his biggest takeaways from the conference about the campaign was bystander intervention.

“Bystander intervention is a multifaceted problem that deserves a multifaceted solution,” Head said. “A lot of times it seems like it is all black and white on how to solve things on campus and it is not. That applies to many issues on campus.”

Head said other student body presidents came up to him and discussed the programs and auxiliaries MSA has so they can implement them on their own campuses.

Head said he believes other student leaders are looking to make a more inclusive campus and improve race relations following the aftermath of the events in Ferguson, Missouri. His biggest goal since taking office in January is to include students who normally aren’t included in those conversations, along with those already included.

“If we can’t show our student body that we love and respect them regardless of how they identify and that we care about every student, then we’re not doing our jobs,” Head said.

Project InSiGht, Israel

Head and interim Chief of Staff Kelcea Barnes traveled to Israel in August to participate in Project InSiGht.

Project InSiGht was a seven-day seminar that encompassed discussions about various Middle Eastern conflicts. They traveled around the country visiting popular locations such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

“We got to get a good look at what I like to call conflict resolution,” Barnes said. “Because there is no way we could go and learn about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and not apply it to some of the conflicts we see on our own campus.”

Head said people never get to hear the Palestinian side of things because, in his view, the U.S. takes a pro-Israel stance.

“As student government officials, it is not our job to be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine or pro-anything; it our job to be pro-the-students,” Head said. “That’s the one stance we take.”

They met with the leaders in the Knesset, the parliament of Israel, along with military directors, journalists, non-governmental organization workers and others.

The conference was completely funded by outside agencies. Head said these agencies invested in students who they felt would be a part of peace negotiations and conversations in the future.

“The whole point of this trip was to gain that insight so we can go in-depth with these conversations with the people who are making these decisions in the future,” Head said.

MU was the only university to have two representatives at the conference.

Barnes said there needs to be more of a focus on international students in addition to respecting them.

“You don’t have to agree with everyone that you come across, but you have to respect them,” Barnes said. “That is so powerful because that is the first step to not only diplomacy, but it’s the first step to solving major issues that we have.”

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