Students march on day of action
As part of a national day of action, a crowd of students marched through campus carrying mattresses and pillows over their heads on Wednesday. The demonstration aimed to support an ongoing performance art piece created by Columbia University senior Emma Sulkowicz.
Sulkowicz quickly gained national attention after she began the project, which she titled “Carry That Weight,” to protest the school’s allowing another student, whom she accused of sexually assaulting her, to remain on campus. She will continue the piece “until the man she accuses of attacking her is no longer on campus, whether he leaves or is expelled or graduates, as she also will next spring,” according to a Sept. 21 New York Times article.
A coalition of college students and activists—comprised of members of activism organizations No Red Tape, Columbia’s Carrying the Weight Together, Hollaback! and Rhize, according to their website—organized a national day of action in support of Sulkowicz’s project. To bring this coalition’s project to campus, Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence organized a campus march for the national day of action.
“I think it was an important event for the Brandeis community because it reminds us that while improvements to policy and resources are extremely important, we also need to come together as a community to stand with survivors,” wrote Ava Blustein ’16, a member of BSASV who helped organize the day of action at the University, in an email to the Justice.
Blustein was one of about 50 members of the Brandeis community who participated in Wednesday’s march from the Rabb steps to Bernstein-Marcus Administration Center, carrying dorm mattresses, pillows and signs. Along with students, Dean of Students Jamele Adams participated in the march, as well as the Psychological Counseling Center’s Senior Associate Director and Clinical Director Joy von Steiger, Trauma Specialist Kristin Huang and Prof. Rani Neutill (ENG), who is currently serving as the interim sexual assault services and prevention specialist.
Psychological Counseling Center Senior Associate Director and Clinical Director Joy von Steiger held a sign in support of participants in the march.
The group gathered at the Rabb steps at 1 p.m., and began marching at about 1:08 p.m. When the group arrived at Bernstein-Marcus, participants were given the option of writing their reason for participating in the day of action on a sign, which the student organizers decided to bring into Bernstein-Marcus and leave for University President Frederick Lawrence, according to Blustein. When the students entered the building, however, “a Board of Trustees meeting was being held, and a few participants entered to give [Lawrence] the sign,” Blustein wrote, noting that “our original intention was to leave the sign for President Fred Lawrence. It was purely coincidence that the Board of Trustees was in a meeting at the time we entered Bernstein-Marcus."
“BSASV is constantly working to advocate for improved and expanded resources for survivors and policy changes,” Blustein wrote to the Justice. “We are currently working on a progress report that will update the community on how we feel the proposals in our petition from last semester have been implemented. Further actions like the march may take place in the future.”
After the march, Adams, Neutill, Huang and von Steiger stayed while the participants gathered outside Bernstein-Marcus and some students wrote on the sign that was later delivered to the Board of Trustees. Adams attended the march because “this is an issue that affects all of us as a university, and we all need to be participatory in making sure that there is a raising of awareness,” he said in an interview with the Justice. “As someone who represents student life and success and the family of administration and faculty that are here for students, it is important to be here.”
Neutill said in an interview with the Justice that she helped the students from BSASV coordinate the march, and said that she wanted to participate “in support of survivors.”
Von Steiger and Huang held signs with messages of support as they stood outside Bernstein-Marcus. In an interview with the Justice, Huang said that she participated “to make sure students know we really support them ... [W]e want to make sure they don’t walk this walk alone.”
Von Steiger agreed, telling the Justice, “We want the student body to know we are really committed ... We want to be involved in creating a culture change and creating a safer community on campus.” She added that the PCC is currently creating new programs to help survivors, as well as working to create more opportunities to facilitate recovery for survivors.
Blustein reaffirmed the purpose of the march: “Ending victim-blaming and rape culture is something we need to do right now together. We can do more to protect and support survivors at Brandeis. I think it’s events like this that are helping us do that,” she wrote.
The University’s participation in the day of action was announced to the Brandeis community through an Oct. 28 email from Sheryl Sousa, the assistant vice president for health and wellness and director of athletics, physical education and recreation.
—Hannah Wulkan contributed reporting.