Two Seniors Bring National “It’s On Us” Initiative to Fordham


FCRH coalition leader Sobrin speaks on the “Enough is Enough” policy. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR OF NY)


A new student group is aiming to expand campus dialogue on sexual and domestic assault and violence prevention with all-new programming this October.

The It’s On Us Coalition, a United Student Government (USG) committee spearheaded by Lexi McMenamin, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’17, and Monica Sobrin, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’17, will invite students to participate in a cross-campus Week of Action with the help of USG, the Office of Residential Life and the Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice.

Sobrin has worked with the national organization It’s On Us since May, when she became a member of their national Student Advisory Committee. The Facebook page for this initiative against sexual and relationship violence on college campuses, started by President Barack Obama’s administration in fall of 2014, states its mission as “Raising awareness. Holding ourselves and each other accountable. Looking out for someone who cannot consent.”

The Lincoln Center campus on Oct. 11-14 will feature interactive events, talks, a Take Back the Night open-mic event and a screening and talkback on “The Hunting Ground,” a 2015 documentary on sexual violence on college campuses. At Rose Hill, students will be able to participate in the Clothesline Project, where survivors of sexual violence can anonymously write their experiences on T-shirts to be displayed on campus.

In addition, the Coalition has begun to provide “consent and bystander intervention workshops” to student leaders, Resident Assistants and athletics participants and will have daily pledge drives, according to Sobrin.

“The closest thing we’ve had [to this] is the club called In Strength I Stand, which sort of subtextually calls themselves the ‘feminist club,’” Dean of Students at FCLC, Keith Eldredge, said. “So clearly issues around violence against women is an important topic for them, and they’ve done programming related to that, but they also have a broader mission.”

As noted in the Fordham Observer in May, the Fall 2015 Campus Climate Survey showed that, on a scale from not likely to extremely likely, over 20 percent of students reported they would not be likely to ask for verbal consent from their intimate partner. In addition, 98 percent of traditional undergraduates at Fordham reported that after having consumed alcohol, they experienced unwanted sexual contact. The Fordham University website lists many changes put in place following the survey’s results, including improvement to orientation and training.

Eldredge explained that the aggressive “Enough is Enough” New York state law passed in July 2015 also requires new training for student leaders, particularly club presidents and treasurers, which is currently met by retaking the freshman-compulsory EverFi Haven online program addressing sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking and sexual harassment in an educational environment.

“I think we have pretty comprehensive programming with a captive population at the beginning of the year, between student orientation, core programs and the online programs,” he said. “But if I create a program and invite people to it, it’s going to have a lot less impact versus if a group of students created that program.

“Is this something that we might be able to work [on] with this new coalition?” he asked. “Lots of different options that we have almost a year to figure out.”

McMenamin said that over the summer, an awareness of the issue grew into a motivation for change. After she posted a peer to peer survey on Facebook concerning Fordham students’ awareness of Title IX policies, Sobrin offered her It’s On Us resources.

“That night we talked on the phone for three hours,” McMenamin recalled, and the two began to plan this coalition.

“I’ve been involved in the activism on campus since my sophomore year,” Sobrin said. “I was involved in the USG Sexual Misconduct Task Force, which was co-chaired by Women’s Empowerment, and we came together, engaged the campus community, had anti-sexual violence discussions and activism. So I’m looking to sort of bring back that energy that we had a couple of years ago.”

“The purpose of this coalition is really to have a more holistic understanding of how to address this topic rather than just leaving it to federal policies, with Title IX, or to interpersonal conversations,” McMenamin explained. “They’re all very dehumanizing. So it’s about creating a more approachable aspect to what’s already a very inaccessible and difficult-to-talk-about subject.”

The Coalition will seek to educate on affirmative consent and relationship health, teach bystander intervention skills in order to prevent assault and show how to support survivors [of sexual violence] and “be good allies,” according to Sobrin. Their methodology consists of education on basic definitions surrounding consent, engagement in discussions both within campus and in the wider world and empowerment to get involved with the work.

“A lot of people are very passionate about this, but we kind of get into our own activist echo chambers and it doesn’t reach as many people as it could,” Sobrin said of work done by Residential Life, USG and Women’s Empowerment. “We are trying to streamline all the great work that’s happening to get everyone in conversation.”

“I think this is definitely necessary since my most positive and educational experiences as an activist have been because of the networks that I’ve been able to form and what I’ve been able to learn from other activists,” Sobrin said of the cross-campus aspect to the group.

“We’re looking forward to ensuring that this momentum doesn’t end after the second week of October,” McMenamin said. “We want to have a continued effort.”

Additional reporting by Sophie Kozub, News Co-Editor

CLARIFICATION: Originally, the article stated “As noted in the Fordham Observer in May, 98 percent of traditional undergraduates at Fordham reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact after having consumed alcohol, according to the Spring 2016 results of the Campus Climate Survey.” It has been since clarified to state “In addition, 98 percent of traditional undergraduates at Fordham reported that after having consumed alcohol, they experienced unwanted sexual contact. The Fordham University website lists many changes put in place following the survey’s results, including improvement to orientation and training.”