Campus culture examined after Weinstein scandal

More than 30 accusers have come forward with charges of harassment against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. These allegations come after the producer reportedly ruled his industry with an iron fist, using his power to exploit and abuse his colleagues and employees for decades.

Virginia Wesleyan students find the importance of a positive culture on campus as an integral part of their safety.

“Even though the act of sexual assault is sexual, it is not about sex, it is all about control. It is about having power over someone else,” said student Denise Fitzgerald.

“I feel like it speaks to a cultural issue more than anything. I think our school has great policies on sexual misconduct, but I don’t know how effective they are, because I haven’t been in that situation,” said senior Marie Lerch.

Alex Addy spoke from the viewpoint of a freshman but still agreed.

“It’s a good community here, I feel like students understand their responsibilities and know right from wrong,” Addy said.

“When we speak about sexual misconduct on campus, we speak on a basis of consent, what our policy is as an institution, ways to get help for victims, and bystander intervention. It is important that we have a community that takes care of one another. That when they see something that is not right, they address it,” said Dean of Students Jason Seward.

Seniors Becca Winslow and Marie Lerch both cited social media campaigns, such as “#metoo” and “#HowIWillChange” as a way to spread awareness about sexual abuse and misconduct. “Some people think that if it isn’t a violent crime, then they don’t have to say anything about it,” Lerch said.

The “#metoo” campaign was created when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of magnitude to the problem.”

The tweet sparked tens of thousands of people to share their stories on social media and prompted a story in the Virginian-Pilot about women in Hampton Roads who tweeted “#metoo.”  

Student activities, Women’s and Gender Studies, Counseling Services, Residence Life, Athletics and other groups on campus hold informative sessions for students who seek to learn more about their part in preventing sexual abuse and misconduct, said Jason Seward.

“For us it comes down to a general respect for other humans. Respecting other cultures and faith bases. Respecting someone’s personal space, and not violating their civil rights. When that respect is present, the community turns into a self sustaining positive environment,” Seward added.

The New York Times did an extensive article on Weinstein and interviewed people such as producer Gail Berman, director Quentin Tarantino and Nina Jacobson, former president of Walt Disney’s Buena Vista Motion Picture Group.

  “I think this is a watershed moment,” Berman said. “Sexual harassment and assault allegations are a major issue in Hollywood, and help contribute to a culture of silence.”

“I knew enough to do more than I did. There was more to it than just the normal rumors, the normal gossip. It wasn’t secondhand. I knew he did a couple of these things. If I had done the work I should have done then, I would have had to not work with him,” said Tarantino.

Jacobson welcomed the coverage and said “I think the floodgates being opened is something that had to happen and that finally brings a subject to the surface that has sort of gone unchecked for countless years.”

Josh Davis