This Meliora Weekend, chalk filled the sidewalks — attendees could see new words scattered across the pavement. The chalk’s message was a timely one: stop sexual violence at UR and elsewhere.
The UR chapter of It’s On Us drew the art, which first appeared the night of Thursday, Oct. 4 — right at the start of Mel Weekend — around the clock tower near Wilson Commons.
By the next day, they had also chalked the area in front of Rush Rhees on the Eastman Quad.
The messages included “#MeToo,” “We Stand with Survivors,” “Stop Blaming Victims!” and many chalkings of the phrase, “It’s On Us.”
It’s On Us (to stop sexual assault) is a social movement created in 2014 by Barack Obama and the White House Council on Women and Girls. It urges the public to stand up against sexual assault and to not be bystanders.
SA launched the campaign at the University the week of Feb. 9, 2015. It has the full support of the University.
“The chalk is our way of supporting survivors and starting a conversation among our community,” senior Amber Williams, co-chair of the UR campaign, said.
The “strongest reason” the group chalked during Mel Weekend, she said, was “the current national rhetoric surrounding sex-based violence survivors.”
Brett Kavanaugh was just confirmed to the Supreme Court after a lengthy hearing about allegations that he had sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor, in high school. Protests against Kavanaugh’s appointment have been held in Washington, D.C. over the last few days.
“We are not a political organization,” Williams said, “but we wanted to stand with all those protesting in D.C.”
Many of the chalkings directly address the Kavanaugh hearing, with messages such as “We Believe You” and “I Believe Her” supporting Ford. “Those who lead us should represent OUR values” could be directed at Kavanaugh and the Senate that appointed him.
But the chalkings apply directly to the UR community as well.
“We also wanted to show the survivors of UR — past and present — that there are people from their community who will always believe them, support them, and stand with them regardless of whether they come forward or keep their trauma private,” Williams said.
Florian Jaeger, a brain and cognitive sciences professor at UR, was accused of sexual misconduct last year when Celeste Kidd, a Ph.D. student of his, and six others submitted an 111-page Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint. Joel Seligman resigned as UR president following the reports’ aftermath, but Jaeger is still with the University.
“Sexual violence is still an issue on our campus, New York, our nation, and the world,” Williams said, “and it will always be an issue until we re-evaluate our culture.”