An Open Letter to Campus in Response to the Phi Kappa Tau Email

October 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

VOICE Initiative

For more about Georgia Tech’s sexual violence and advocacy initiative, visit voice.gatech.edu.

Dear Georgia Tech Students, Faculty and Staff,

Earlier this week, an email written by a Georgia Tech fraternity member to his chapter was widely circulated throughout our community and picked up by various news sources. The email directly encourages the use of alcohol as a coercive tool for nonconsensual sexual activity. The email and behavior described within it is reprehensible. At Georgia Tech, we define consent as an agreement that is informed, freely and actively given, and not coerced in any way. This email attempts to advance a rape culture that normalizes and even encourages sexual violence on college campuses and in society at large.

While this email came from a member of a fraternity, the issue of sexual violence is not limited to the Greek community. We take a wider community approach that advocates everyone has a role to play in sexual violence prevention. We applaud the courage of those who came forward to the administration about this email and recognize their actions as a step in challenging this inexcusable behavior.

Georgia Tech takes this issue seriously. VOICE is Georgia Tech’s sexual violence prevention and advocacy initiative that strives to create a campus culture that encourages respect, communication, and equity. VOICE believes that everyone has the right to live and learn free of violence or the threat of violence. This initiative is led by the Women’s Resource Center and Health Promotion, and is comprised of multiple campus stakeholders.

VOICE has a number of ongoing programs and events targeted at sexual violence prevention. A few upcoming programs are:

  • Safe Sister, TONIGHT, 5–9 p.m.
  • Ally Training, Oct. 25, 8:30 a.m – noon
  • Fraternity Men Against Violence (part of Man Up Week), Nov. 13, 5–9 p.m.
  • Advocate Training, Nov. 22, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Ongoing presentations to classes or student organizations by request.

These are just a few of the ways we engage students, faculty and staff on this issue. For information and to register for these and other programs, please visit voice.gatech.edu. We recognize that this student’s email has made many in our community feel unsafe, victimized, or “triggered.” VOICE will be holding open office hours on Thursday from 2:30–5 p.m. and Friday from 1–4 p.m. in the Women’s Resource Center (Suite 131, Smithgall Student Services Building) for those in need of support or advocacy. Throughout the year, an Advocate is available in the Women’s Resource Center Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. by appointment, and for emergency after hours through the Georgia Tech Police Department.

For more information on sexual violence resources on campus and in the community, or to get involved, please visit voice.gatech.edu or email voice@gatech.edu.

Please join us as we work to create a campus culture that does not tolerate sexual violence.

On behalf of the VOICE Initiative:
Melanie DeMaeyer, Coordinator of the Women’s Resource Center
Lee Helmken, Violence Prevention Health Educator
Vladimir Oge, Director of Health Promotion
Colleen Riggle, Assistant Dean and Director of the Women’s Resource Center

Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

April 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

Why do women underestimate their beauty? I recently stumbled upon this truly inspiring Dove commercial aimed defining what beauty really is in order to create a worldwide conversation about it and encourage debate.

To be honest, I had never even heard about this campaign but after finding the Dove Real Beauty Sketches, I began to read all about it. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty began in 2004 after a global study found that a mere 2% of women around the world considered themselves beautiful. Since 2004, Dove has implemented new instruments of communications that encourage women to join this discussion and to challenge the stereotypes that society has about beauty.

In the Dove Real Beauty Sketches, six women were asked to describe their appearance to forensic artist Gil Zamora who created composite sketches based off of their descriptions. Before this, the women were asked to spend time with strangers without knowing why they were doing so. After they were sketched the first time, the strangers were asked to describe the woman that had been sketched earlier. The differences in the sketches were truly amazing. They showed that women don’t consider themselves beautiful based off of what people use to tell them or based off of this fake perception of what beauty really is from society in general.

Watching this video gave me the chills. By the end of the commercial I was almost in tears because of the powerful message that it conveyed. It is time that we stop thinking about what is wrong with us and time to start embracing the natural beauty that we were born with.

Watch it, think about it, and remember, YOU ARE MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN YOU THINK.

– Jennifer C.

Women Honor Women’s Suffrage March

March 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

On March 3, 2013, thousands of women rallied together to march down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C in an effort to advance women’s suffrage in the U.S. It was held the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration to “protest against the present political organization of society, from which women are excluded.”  Organized by Alice Paul and led by Inez Millholland, the parade included 26 floats, ten bands, and more than 8000 marchers. During the parade, the marchers were harassed by crowds of men who made it almost impossible to pass through them. As many as 200 were treated for injuries at local hospitals. Despite these setbacks, the marchers were able to finish the parade at the Treasury Building.

Exactly 100 years later, thousands of women from the Delta Sigma Theta sorority came together to commemorate the historic occasion. These women gathered on March 3rd, 2013 to retrace the steps of 22 founding members of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority who participated in the march in 1913. They were considered the only African American women’s group to take part in the parade in 1913. The event was the complete opposite of the 1913 parade because of just how long women have come since not having the right to vote. For one, they were allowed to march freely without having people–especially men–against equal rights for women.

Looking back on it, its amazing just how far women have come in these 100 years. From getting the right to vote, to being allowed in combat, being able to have a voice in congress, and stepping closer and closer to equal pay, women have crossed many boundaries in the past century. With all of these feats, it certainly doesn’t stop here. We still have a long way to go in our fight towards equality and there is nothing stopping us from achieving that.

– Jennifer C.

Double Standards: A Personal Reflection

March 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

Why are there so many double standards???!!! For example, when I was growing up, I was taught that it was never okay for a male to place his hands on a female, but the converse of this statement is not true (or at least emphasized). Another example is how it is okay for females to wear both girls’ clothing and boys’ clothing, but it is generally not acceptable for a male to wear girls’ clothing. Why are these double standards constantly perpetuated in today’s society???

The root of this problem involves gender and society norms created in America. These norms have done nothing but foster fear, hate, intolerance, and no liberation. They have allowed people to stay within his/her comfort zones and not challenge the norms or think outside the box. Thankfully, America is slowly (but surely) turning a tide towards change, equality, diversity, tolerance, acceptance, and liberation. Today, I see people wear non-gender conforming clothing and most people do not have a problem with this. Today, I see males wearing make-up in public. Today, I see people of the same sex showing public displays of affection.

Unfortunately, this new progressive stage is not accepted or visible everywhere, especially outside the city of Atlanta. In many places, women are still subjugated to being treated as second class citizens. Recently in the news, an openly gay man who intended to run for mayor in a city in Mississippi was found dead in a river, in what authorities described as a homicide. Sometimes when I see the current state of America today, it breaks my heart, but I am that much more motivated to get involved in my community, to create a social change, and to end the double standards that have plagued our society for decades.

– Alfonza L.

LGBT News in Academia: Morehouse Offers new course on LGBTQ history and culture

February 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

I recently read an article written by Marcus Lee, a second year sociology major at Morehouse College, one of the most prestigious historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) in the country. The article read “Morehouse offers LGBTQ course.” My eyes lit up with surprise while my jaw dropped to show my disbelief. My head instantly was filled with questions.

Later on, I saw a news segment on 11 Alive News that explained this story more in depth. This student, being a sociology major, was very observant about the culture of Morehouse and the normal relations between the male students. He noticed that there was much brotherly love amongst the students, but as soon as the issue or topic pertaining to the LGBTQ community arose, the atmosphere quickly shifted from being amiable to uncomfortable. Morehouse does have a history of not being the most inclusive when it comes to homosexuality and gender nonconformity. In 2002 a Morehouse was the center of controversy for a hate crime when a student who was profiled as gay was attacked and beaten by another student. And just last year, Morehouse instituted a new policy that disallowed any student from wearing non-male gender conforming articles of clothing and accessories. I remember discussing this topic with my friends, some who attended Morehouse, to see how they felt about this new policy. It was a bit tricky to reconcile my belief that we should exhibit freedom of expression as United States citizens, but Morehouse is a private institution, and students must sign a contract to adhere to their policies before being formally accepted by the institution. One of my friends jokingly stated “Maybe some of them should transfer to Spelman!”

So Morehouse allowing this course to be taught is MAJOR progress towards acceptance, tolerance, and inclusivity of the LGBTQ community.  The course is being taught by an alumnus of the school, who is now a professor at Yale University, via Skype. In other news, Morehouse has a new homosexual-heterosexual alliance/student advocacy organization in existence called Morehouse SafeSpace. I personally have to say that given Morehouse’s history, I am very proud to see these major milestones towards acceptance and inclusivity. Although Georgia Tech has been working to promote acceptance, tolerance, and inclusivity of all persons regardless of race, gender, gender-identity, religious preference, political affiliation, and sexual orientation, there has never been an LGBTQ course taught at this institution. I hope that one day Georgia Tech will offer this course, and that this inspirational story will produce a ripple effect to all other colleges and universities across the nation.

– Alfonza L.

Georgia Tech Rising

February 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

Each year, thousands of women across the country rally together for the Vagina Monologues to speak out against sexual violence. This year we join together for One Billion Rising–a movement in which women “WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence.”

one-billion-risingSo how can you get involved? Easy! Since this movement is worldwide, there are several events being held. All you have to do is log on to onebillionrising.org and check for local V-Day events near you. They will all be taking place on February 14th, 2013–V-Day’s 15th anniversary. Our local rising, “One Billion Rising Atlanta,” will take place on the steps of the capitol at 10 am. There we plan on supporting the Georgia Women for Change 2013 legislative agenda: End Violence Against Women and Girls. At 12 pm, there will be a flash mob on Peachtree Street Downtown. Think you might want to join?  Join the Facebook group at www.onebillionatlanta.com to find out when rehearsals will be and where the flash mob will be located. You can learn the dance moves by logging in to http://onebillionrising.org/blog/entry/learn-the-steps-to-break-the-chain

In addition to V-Day, the Georgia Tech Women’s Resource center will be rallying against violence as they show their production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues on March 29th and March 30th at the Academy of Medicine.  All of the funds raised on these nights will be donated to Tapestri Inc., a local non-profit agency that focuses on preventing sexual and domestic violence and exploitation through advocacy, education, and community organizing.

It is not to late to join the cause! Visit http://www.vday.org to find out how you can get involved and join the fight to eliminate violence against women!

– Jennifer C.

3rd Annual MLK Day of Service

January 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

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MLK Day of service is a day to reflect on the life, legacy, and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The impact that he created for generations to come in the fight for civil rights will forever reverberate in our hearts and minds. While many of us participated in other activities like watching the annual MLK commemoration service at Ebenezer Baptist Church or watching the inauguration of America’s first African-American Commander in Chief, others like myself went out to volunteer in our local communities. I went to volunteer at the Center for the Pan-Asian Community Services(CPACS).

The day started out with a small presentation from the MLK Planning Committee. This was a great way to reflect on how Dr. King has personally impacted our lives. Next we did a short networking activity. After that, we headed out with our groups to volunteer!  So I thought that I would be doing in-door volunteer work (i.e. carpet cleaning), but instead I got a chance to plant trees. This was one of the few days that I allowed myself to do free manual labor, but I had a great time. I got a chance to meet new people and to make a different in my community. I even got a chance to hear some of the inauguration on the bus back to Georgia Tech!

As I reflect back on that day, I will always see MLK Day as a day ON and not a day OFF.   What I loved about that day was seeing the faces of so many undergraduate students. I saw people from all different ethnic backgrounds, skin colors, heights, classes, socioeconomic statuses, etc. Seeing these students is living proof that without the work of activists like Dr. King, these students and myself would not be able to attend such a diverse school like Georgia Tech. After 52 years of the matriculation of African-American students into Georgia Tech, and after 51 years of the integration of women, Georgia Tech continues to strive for excellence, inclusion, and diversity, all of the values that Dr. King himself believed in.

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