STORY BY ANGELA UFHEIL
Drake University’s Student Activists for Gender Equality (SAGE) have been so busy that they moved their annual conference from the spring semester to the fall to accommodate conflicting programs.
SAGE held its annual conference from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 9 in the Medbury Hall Honors Lounge. SAGE President Samantha Brenner explained that the scheduling change was made to accommodate the “Vagina Monologues,” which will take place in the spring.
Brenner was pleased to see more Drake students attend the conference than in years past.
“In general, when we do programs, we want to reach people who don’t go to our meetings regularly,” Brenner said.
Although 57 people had registered, 15-20 people were in attendance at one time.
“We’ll have people trickling in and out throughout the day,” Brenner said during the event. “That’s kind of the nature of it.”
The conference began with a speech from Tess Cody, the campus outreach coordinator from Crisis Intervention Services, a group that provides support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Cody reviewed sexual assault laws at the federal, state and university levels, but said she would have liked to discuss even more information.
“I acknowledge that sexual assault policy is not something you can cover in an hour,” Cody said.
At the national level, Cody discussed Title IX provisions, including the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, which aims to create transparency about sexual assaults on college campuses and provides support for victims.
The Campus SaVE Act also requires universities to provide education about sexual assault prevention.
A video shared at the conference titled, “Know Your IX,” can be viewed for more information about victim rights under Title IX.
Cody also discussed sexual assault policy at Drake. SAGE members agreed that Drake policy needs to be discussed more.
“It’s important that people know their rights,” Brenner said.
Becca Lee, a Drake graduate and the Des Moines site director for the website
Hollaback! spoke as well. Hollaback! is an organization designed to end street harassment. The website acts as a forum for victims to post their stories.
“We envision a world where street harassment is not tolerated, and where we all enjoy equal access to public spaces,” Lee said.
SAGE members discussed the various forms of street harassment from the seemingly harmless “Smile, baby” to the more intimidating stalking and groping that sometimes occurs
Lee said responding to these unwelcome advances can be tricky.
“You first have to ask if you are in danger,” Lee said. “However you feel safe to respond, we support that.”
Students from Drake’s Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) presented about the role of a bystander in dating violence. Drake alum David Heineman also spoke about rape culture and self-defense.
First year SAGE member Phoebe Clark said Heineman’s talk was the most intense part of the conference.
“When he talked about acquaintance rape, it got really real,” Clark said.
Like Brenner, Clark was pleased to see more Drake students in attendance. But she still isn’t satisfied with the number.
“More people would be nice, especially from other places, like the (Des Moines) community and other schools,” Clark said.
Brenner agrees that a more diverse audience would be ideal.
“We want to attract people who are interested but involved in other activities,” Brenner said.
SAGE meets at 9 p.m. every Monday in the CAYA house, located at 1153 28th St. in Des Moines. All Drake students are welcome to attend.