STORY BY GRACE ROGERS
This past Saturday, Drake University held the fifth annual Engaged Citizen conference.
This year’s topic, gender violence: analysis and action, featured local community leaders and activists, as well as Drake professors and students.
While some students attended the conference for class, sophomore Becky Backes participated out of interest for the topic.
“I’m just really interested in gender equality and gender violence and how those interact,” Backes said. “I want to learn more about that connection and the local laws in and around Iowa.”
“There is not that much awareness on campus about these issues,” Backes said. “Even today, with the turn out, it’s been kind of low. I think it’s important to raise awareness.”
Jeorgie Smith, a junior Broadcast News major, echoed the sentiment.
“I think that sexual assault has been such a huge thing in the media right now that Drake really needs to focus on that and move us forward,” Smith said. “It’s a timely topic that people need to be hearing about and learning about.”
The Engaged Citizen conference featured different ways for participants to learn about sexual assault, including a keynote panel and breakout sessions.
One session called “Campus Policies for Student Victims” was presented by senior Sam Brenner and Tess Cody, the campus outreach coordinator for crisis intervention services.
“We’ve been looking into the Drake sexual conduct policy for awhile and comparing it to what the best practices are and noticed there are some easy ways that we can create meaningful change on campus,” Brenner said. “We wanted to tell students and community members about that and invite students to come together and talk about those changes so we can find a way to make them happen.”
Cody said it’s important for students to have input for policy decision-makers.
“Making sure that the policies fit the need of the students is critical,” Cody said. “And they’re going to have really great insight into how things work on campus, so now is such a great time for students to be saying what they want to see on their campus.”
“My last session was led by Beth Younger, and she told us that we just need to be able to ask the tough questions,” Smith said. “We need to have the hard conversations and just get people out and talking and starting the movement forward.”
Brenner and Cody have started a way to make change, by asking the student body what changes they would like to see in Drake University’s sexual conduct policy.
“This is something that could happen at anytime, to anyone in Iowa, at Drake,” Brenner said. “We should have concrete ways that we can facilitate creating consequences for those accused.”
“Student voices are an important missing key at times,” Cody said. “Not just at Drake, but across different campuses.”
Students who want to provide input can attend a meeting in the Medbury Hall Honors Lounge on Mar. 10 at 7:30 p.m.