“Sexual respect dinners” pave way for improvements on campus

ALINA PANEK — Denison aims to be one of the leading colleges in ridding the world of sexual assault. One of the first steps that the campus is actively taking is dialogue dinners dubbed “Sexual Respect Dinners.”

These dinners will be conversations about promoting and educating the community about sexual respect. All members of the Denison community are invited to attend.

Dean of Students, Bill Fox and Dr. Rebecca Homan, Associate Professor of Biology and a steering committee of students: Libby Beach ‘20, Jordan Beck ‘20, Eric Buer ‘20, Lindsey Clemson ‘20, Hannah Fishkin ‘19, Erin Hudson ‘19, Tariq Longsworth ‘20, Sam McPeak ‘19, Elena Meth ‘19, Brandon Novak ‘22, Matthew Nowling ‘21, and Nalani Wean ‘21 are leading the charge on these events. They are expecting over 200 attendees, which includes students, faculty and staff for the two dinners taking place on Monday, February 4 and Thursday, February 7 in the Curtis Provost Hall. The hosts are welcoming walk-in guests.

“The need for this dinner was further intensified last semester because of events happening across the country,” Nowling said. “These events included the continued work of the #MeToo movement, the introduction of new Title IX policy by the Trump Administration and the Brett Kavanaugh hearing.”

President Adam Weinberg, Vice President Dr. Laurel Kennedy, and Provost Dr. Kim Coplin started the conversation in an email. On October 7 in an email sent by President Weinberg, he wrote to all students, faculty, and staff about sexual respect, inviting others to join the conversation about how to make sexual respect a driving value at Denison and how to rid the campus of sexual assault.

“This is an opportunity for us to do work together, as a campus community, that will both make our campus stronger while leading the way in higher education on the issue of sexual respect and eliminating sexual assault,” Weinberg said via email. “We want Denison to become a national leader on one of the most important issues of our time. It is the right thing to do. We have fantastic students, faculty and staff who care about each other and the college. We can build on this foundation to do more and do better.”

On October 30 Dr. Bill Fox, Dean of Students, updated the student body in an email about the dinners.

“Our goal is to bring our campus community together to reflect, communicate and engage in strategies to ensure that sexual respect is central in our campus culture,” Fox said in an email. “We will begin this process by hosting two campus-wide dinners. It is very important that this process begins with honest, reflective conversations, engaged by a wide range of stakeholders.”

There will be a keynote speech by President Weinberg and then the conversations over dinner will commence. The conversations will be led by student hosts, chosen by the steering committee for their diverse engagements on campus and ability to facilitate. The student table hosts will lead the conversation for groups of a dozen individuals representing different parts of the Denison community. Over the course of a two-hour dinner, the groups will focus on questions designed to generate better understandings and ideas for the sexual respect at Denison. Childcare will also be provided during these times for anyone in need.

“Dr. Homan and I have truly enjoyed working alongside this student steering committee,” Fox said. “Many of these students have exhibited leadership on the topic of sexual respect while others emerged as new leaders during this process. They have been thoughtful in developing the conversation prompts and considering ways to move the ideas that are shared at dinner into action. We anticipate presenting a report to the Denison Coalition for Sexual Respect (DCSR) and other groups that organize ongoing work related to this topic.”

Anyone interested in helping the campus with their mission of sexual respect is welcome to walk-in at one of the dinners or attend a Denison Sexual Respect meeting led by Cameron Morrison (morrisonc@denison.edu).

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