Students walked out of class at the University of Wyoming Monday to draw attention to the administration’s handling of sexual assault. The organizers believe the school should be doing more, so they drafted a letter to UW President Laurie Nichols outlining a list of actions that should be taken to improve safety on campus.
This follows a recent report of sexual assault by an unknown perpetrator in a UW parking lot.
The students organized a walkout to draw attention to their demands -- asking their peers to leave morning classes at 10:30 a.m. and gather outside the student union. Organizers passed around a petition so others could show support for the letter.
Art Major Peytin Fitzgerald helped organize the event. She said her friends who are survivors of sexual assault feel like their feedback on how to improve policies and procedures has been dismissed by university officials. That leaves them feeling alone, which is why, Fitzgerald said, the walkout was important.
“We are mostly doing it for the survivors of assault and it’s a way for them to see community,” said Fitzgerald. “But it is also a way for people higher in the university to see there is an actual issue that they are not addressing.”
Expressing frustration with UW’s prevention efforts the letter asked: “How many sexual assault prevention/awareness events can we do on campus, if people higher up are not doing their job to help victims?”
Among the 50 students gathered was student body president Ben Wetzel, who said he was there to show his support. He said students don’t always feel safe or feel heard when they reach out to university officials or administrators to talk about sexual violence.
“We want to make sure that we have the resources in place, and the opportunity, and the training for people on how to respond if they receive reports; how to respond if they receive comments about these areas.” Wetzel added, “and make sure we’re supporting survivors after they come to us, rather than in anyway making them feel like a burden to the system.”
Following the walk out, students marched across campus to deliver the letter and the petition to the administration. Sean Blackburn, Vice President of Student Affairs, said the feedback will contribute to ongoing efforts to prevent sexual violence.