Roughly 50 students marched through the Fraternity Quad on Thursday as part of UR College Feminists’ yearly “Take Back the Night” demonstration to raise awareness around sexual violence and alleged shortfalls of UR’s Title IX office.
The short march, which followed speeches and a poster-making session in the Gowen Room, wound from Wilson Commons to the end of the Fraternity Quad farthest from Todd Union, at which point the crowd marched directly through the center lawn back towards Wilson Commons.
“Where we walk, around the Frat Quad, is a place where not a lot of women, especially who are freshmen, feel safe,” said junior and UR College Feminists Co-President Hannah Gordon, who helped organize the event and lead the pack during the march. “And a lot of violence happens in that space, so to reclaim it as our own, as a community that’s willing to protect women and talk about affirmative consent, et cetera, et cetera — it’s really important to physically take up space that’s been taken from us.”
Data specific to the Fraternity Quad is unavailable, but in 2021 there were 41 reports of alleged sexual assault on University campuses, according to UR’s “Think Safe 2022” report. This figure included 28 alleged rapes and 13 alleged cases of fondling. 21of these reported rapes were alleged to have occurred on the River Campus, and all of the reported fondlings were alleged to have occurred at the Medical Center or Strong Memorial Hospital.
While “Take Back the Night” is an annual event, Gordon said it came with some changes this year.
“This year, frats were not invited to cosponsor, only sororities and gender-inclusive institutions. So that’s a change. I don’t think that College Feminists is in a position where we want to give frats any sort of notoriety for helping us,” she said. “And the second thing is we did not invite Title IX to speak. They were there, their resources were made accessible, but we did not want to give them the platform, because we don’t believe that their safety nets are offering every student that much safety.”
Bearing signs advocating against sexual assault, alleged mishandling of sexual violence cases by fraternities, and alleged problems with UR’s Title IX office, the protesters chanted loudly as they passed the Greek life houses. Senior Evelyn Machado, who marched near the middle of the pack, told the Campus Times what pushed her to march.
“I support everything women-related — feminism, intersectional feminism. Sexual assault is very prevalent, not only around the world but especially on college campuses,” she said. “[…] People need to be fucking accountable. People need to know and understand what sexual assault is, where to go to find [resources to report] it. And obviously not fucking Title IX, because Title IX won’t do shit. That’s why I’m here, just to support everyone else, victim or not.”
When asked what prompted her views on the Title IX office, Machado said she had heard stories about people moving forward with the office’s process and being met with inaction.
“This school isn’t accountable whatsoever when it comes to, you know, directing any of this behavior with any of the students, because they don’t fucking give a shit,” she said. “I feel, like any other college administration, they just won’t do anything. They do anything to save their own asses compared to trying to save and heal their students.”
Gordon echoed Machado’s views on the Title IX office but also said that other institutions have to be held accountable and reformed.
“Title IX is a failed institution that ghosts people who need help, and frats fucking suck, and women don’t feel safe on this campus, and there is institutional lacking,” she said. “So that’s when student leaders need to come up and support our friends and our community and take back the night.”
But she also expressed frustration about the responsibility for advocating reform falling on the backs of busy students.
“Bureaucracies are meant to not break,” she said. “The amount of pressure that’s put on students in every facet of our lives, but especially at [UR] academically, they don’t want students to have the amount of time to plan an event like that happened tonight, and they don’t want to be accessible to students. […] It shouldn’t be, and it sucks that it is, the students’ responsibility. Like, I have a paper due on Monday, and I have a lab due on Friday. I shouldn’t be here right now. We shouldn’t have to do this. But until everyone feels safe on this campus, we have to.”