Protestors gather in support of the #MeToo Movement. PHOTO COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS
When choosing where to attend college, campus safety often comes up as a major factor. A place that an adult on their own would be calling home for up to nine months a year should inspire confidence in the security there. While Millersville certainly goes above and beyond to accomplish this, issues are often inevitable. Unfortunately, incidents of sexual harassment, assault, and dating violence happen everywhere, and our own campus is no exception. As issues arise, survivors want to support, while members of the community seek to be aware and take action.
In light of recent events, one page came into existence to accomplish this.
First posting to Instagram on Sept. 20, the MeToo Millersville page, known as @metoo_mu, allows survivors to anonymously submit their stories through a Google Form, which are then posted on the page. In addition, they provide resources for those seeking to report or find support. The page has garnered much traction in the Millersville community, sparking discussion and controversy regarding discrimination, sexual assault, and campus safety.
One administrator of the page, who prefers to go by Alex, accepted a request for an interview.
“A big part of why I came to Millersville was because of how safe I thought of it,” says Alex. He explains that, “I’ve made plenty of friends, we have gotten involved in a lot of organizations, and heard so many stories and heard what’s happened to some people. Some were really scary to hear about.”
In the past year, similar social media pages, including MeToo Purdue and Why I Didn’t Report PSU, sprouted up in support of survivors. By telling their stories and raising awareness, Millersville students were inclined to follow in their footsteps.
“We loved what they were doing and were inspired to provide that outlet to people. We knew this campus to be safe, but there are still so many issues. We want to give a voice to those who are scared to come forward or who don’t know what to do.”
Roughly a dozen people, all Millersville students, run the page. Due to the nature of their page and their own previous experiences, all of these administrators choose to remain anonymous, focusing their efforts on raising awareness and providing support to the community. In addition, they hope that their content will encourage both university staff and students to adapt and learn to better support survivors and address incidents of sexual assault and dating violence, both on and off campus.
“All of us have had very positive experiences with how the university responded,” says Alex. “We have a lot of respect for what they do, but there have been a number of submissions from people who were very dissatisfied because they felt they didn’t have the right support they needed.”
The MeToo Millersville page, named after the controversial social media movement intended to allow survivors to tell their stories of assault and abuse, expected and prepared themselves for controversy. Initially fearing backlash due to the sensitive nature of the account and their posts, administrators, including Alex, were shocked by the feedback and support they received.
“We were so worried about the feedback we would get from students and the administration,” says Alex. “We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both, which has made the process much easier.”
In response to the page, numerous organizations on campus have expressed their support and concern by sharing posts and hosting related events. One of the organizations, the College Democrats, held an event on September 28th to discuss Title IX and campus safety resources.
This meeting, hosted in the style of a roundtable discussion, gave students the opportunity to speak their minds on how students and staff handle incidents of sexual assault and dating violence, ranging from the effectiveness of Title IX and campus and local police, to how Greek life relates to these incidents. As one of the posts on the MeToo page accused a fraternity member of assault, students raised concerns regarding Greek life’s role in enabling and ignoring sexual violence.
While views on this matter were mixed, attendees generally agreed that blaming or eliminating Greek life is not the solution.
“When a member of a fraternity [or any person] assaults someone, only the assailant is directly at fault,” said one student in attendance, “but if others are aware and do nothing about it, they become complacent. Regardless, they need to hold others accountable, even if they wear the same letters.”
Another student said that, “If the university decides to kick Greek life off campus, it won’t be for accountability, but rather to remove liability,” said another, “since the fraternities and sororities are already off campus, there is only so much they can do.”
Students also recommended that consent training should be both required and enforced, while discussion on the topic should be integrated into the general education curriculum, such as Wellness or the Freshman Seminar. Another suggestion brought up was for organizations such as the Counseling Center, Montour House, and the Center for Health Education and Promotion to actively promote their resources.
College Democrats president Shawnee Cranfill admitted that the event was organized in response to the MeToo page, although the executive board considered holding a discussion of the sort for quite some time.
“If they’re living on campus, they are Millersville students and must follow the Code of Conduct,” says Cranfill. “When you are reporting to Title IX, you are not reporting to law enforcement. It might be scarier to talk to cops, concerned that they will say it is your fault. There are so many students who don’t know what resources are out there or how they can be best supported, and it’s really hurting our campus. We hope that this event was a chance for students to discuss this topic openly and promote a safer and more aware community.”
Although the MeToo Page administrators appreciate organizations reaching out to collaborate, they wish to maintain anonymity and focus on raising awareness, as that is their primary goal.
“There are only a handful of us and 6,000 students,” says Alex. “If just a few hundred people read our page and choose not to take action, we don’t feel we will do much change.”
Alex instead encourages students and organizations to take action on their own, whether that be through sharing resources, such as those included in their LinkTree or in their Google Form, or educating themselves on related topics. She also suggests that people download the LiveSafe app, which allows users to communicate their location and safety status with friends.
“At the end of the day, the administration is not the problem. We need to improve campus life and culture by informing ourselves and others, while also keeping each other safe and holding those who harm others accountable.”
In a statement in response to the page, Millersville Vice President of Student Affairs at Millersville Mary Beth Williams, noted that, “It is important that every member of our community feels heard, and we understand this page provides students an opportunity to share their stories.” She noted that, “Students who interact with this platform are modeling the compassion we empower our students to have for one another and themselves … Our Title IX Coordinator stands ready to support and work collaboratively with other departments to continue to provide a safe environment and to educate our community on behaviors that are not accepted.”
Williams also affirms that the Title IX office provides athletes and resident assistants with sexual misconduct training and that they also collaborate with the Millersville University Police Department to provide workshops, information, and resources to educate the community. Those seeking support may reach out to the MeToo Page by looking at the resources provided in their LinkTree, or by reaching out to Millersville’s Title IX office, campus police, or Montour House, which is home to the women’s center and the campus Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) representative.