Members of the University’s administration joined students in the Shapiro Campus Center atrium on Thursday night to stand in solidarity with those affected by sexual violence. The Prevention Advocacy Resource Center (PARC) announced the We Believe You Vigil in an Oct. 10 email, just one day before the event. 

In an email to the Justice, Director of PARC Sarah Berg explained “the vigil was put together quickly in response to what felt like a community need … to do something for everyone in the community, students, staff, and faculty alike, who needed a space to be in solidarity with each other.” 

She continued that she wanted the community to have a chance to come together and “share support as a way to try to push back against the anger and hurt many people are feeling.” 

Before the vigil began, University President Ron Liebowitz, Provost Lisa Lynch, Dean of Students Jamele Adams and Student Union President Hannah Brown engaged in conversation with participating students. Also in attendance were staff from the Brandeis Multifaith Chaplaincy, PARC, the Athletics Department, the Rabb School of Continuing Studies and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 

By the time the microphone system was set up, a group of roughly 20 students had gathered in the atrium. Jamele Adams requested everyone to gather around and join hands. “There are a lot of folks who could not be here for many reasons and we recognize them,” Adams said. “We recognize the need to represent those folks.” 

Provost Lisa Lynch spoke next, expressing her belief that “so much seems the same” 27 years after Brandeis Prof. Anita Hill’s (Heller) testimony against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. 

“As shaken as we may all be from recent events,” she continued, “both as survivors and knowing loved ones who are survivors, we must not be deterred from finding ways [to] take action. We denounce the problem, but we must all work on addressing it together.” 

Brown reiterated the Student Union’s commitment to support survivors. “Student leadership at Brandeis believes you and stands for survivors,” she declared. Brown agreed that there remains room for improvement when it comes to the University preventing and responding to sexual assault and harassment. Brown affirmed her belief that the Brandeis community can make a difference, saying, “This community is strong, capable, and caring, and we have the ability to make progress on prevention, survivor support, and affirmation.” 

For her part, Brown pledged to “do what I can to find solutions and make progress here at Brandeis and beyond.” She encouraged her fellow Brandeis students, saying, “I pledge to hold my community and the people I surround myself to the same standard. And I encourage you to do the same.” 

Representatives of PARC and the Multifaith Chaplaincy spoke to the importance of moving forward together. 

On this theme, Adams said, “We acknowledge the need to believe. We commit ourselves to believe. We are unapologetic for that belief.”  

When asked whether the vigil was a step toward the Brandeis administration more directly engaging with students on matters such as sexual violence, Sarah Berg wrote, “That was certainly the intention.” 

In her email, Berg shared that “we have a lot to give to each other but have to choose to be vulnerable with each other to allow it.” Berg acknowledged this would not be easy. She explained “being able to trust each other is necessary for our community,” although she admitted there is room for improvement in this.

Attendees were given flyers with information on upcoming events related to sexual violence hosted by PARC, the Chaplaincy, and other campus organizations. In her email, Berg encouraged students to attend, explaining that she “find[s] their events so healing and peaceful.” In the same email, Berg also wrote that these events are designed in part to keep the conversation open and create spaces where survivors can be supported. 

Adams declared, “This is not the end, this is not the only, this is a continuation.”