The Student Government Association (SGA) approved a resolution at their meeting on Jan. 22 to stand in solidarity with those who fall victim to sexual harassment and assault.
The resolution reads that SHU’s SGA “proclaims its intention to support all those victimized, objectified, or have been in any other way subject to sexual harassment and assault through intimidation, coercion, or violence.”
It also states that SGA “condemns the heinous actions of sexual predators who have harmed another person mentally, emotionally or physically.”
SGA “affirms the commitment to respect the lives and dignity of every person who is a part of the Seton Hall community, and to stand in solidarity with those impacted by sexual harassment and assault.”
The initiative “denounces any kind of language or action that objectifies, coerces, or in other ways mistreats any individual.” SGA will have a moment of silence for those affected by sexual harassment and assault at the beginning of their next meeting on Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. in the Chancellor’s Suite in the University Center.
The resolution was authored by College of Education Senator Emma Murphy and Arts and Sciences Senator William Kuncken. Eight SGA members co-sponsored the bill, including Senators Marlene Da Cruz, Darby DeBonis, Robert Serrano, Marya Mahmood, Jacob Abel, Eduardo Mendoza, Efrain Vallejo and Jordan Louis.
Murphy, a sophomore secondary education and history major, wrote in an email that she and Kuncken decided to create the resolution after several events transpired.
This includes the “horrific amount of accusations against people in popular culture (sports, Hollywood, etc.), as well as the #MeToo movement, and several human rights marches and rallies that occurred recently,” she said. Murphy added that she attended an event sponsored by the College of Education called “Protecting God’s Children,” a child abuse prevention training session.
“All of these events have been resonating with us for quite some time, and we felt as though it was appropriate to bring this resolution up at the first meeting of the semester, as it was most likely that every senator would be in attendance,” she said.
She said her motivation for the resolution was to draw awareness to the issue because “it’s a topic that may be overlooked and needs to be at the forefront of our discussions, not only within Student Government, but as a community.”
Murphy said it was imperative to have a male and female senator write the resolution because men and women are both affected by the issue and should be equally concerned. She added that the co-sponsors were unintentionally four men and four women.
Furthermore, Murphy said that most people were in support when she and Kuncken proposed their resolution, but some needed clarification. She said that she and Kuncken explained their reasons for writing the resolution and the need for SGA to show its concern and commitment to the issue. After a half hour of questions, Murphy said that SGA passed the resolution by a large majority.
She further explained that they chose to hold a moment of silence at their next meeting “as a chance to reflect on all those impacted by sexual harassment and assault – this is just the beginning of a more powerful movement across campus.”
Murphy added that she has reached out to KNOW MORE, which educates students on sexual assault and alcohol and drug abuse. She wants to have KNOW MORE use the public forum section of SGA’s agenda so as “to continue having an open dialogue about this extremely important issue.”
“There can never be too much discussion on an issue like this and I believe starting a dialogue with organizations that combat sexual harassment and assault is a great step in the right direction,” she said. “This is an issue that I hold dearly in my heart and I hope to continue making positive change.”
Kuncken, a junior political science and philosophy major, also spoke about what spurred the idea for him and Murphy to create the legislation.
He wrote in an email that he and Murphy were “horrified by the seemingly endless amount of sexual abuse stories in the media, film industry, and especially amongst those in public service.”
He added, “While these cases are all over news, we felt that it was a topic that was unfortunately too often left undiscussed in SGA. Consequently, we felt it was important to bring this very serious and important dialogue back into the forefront.”
Kuncken said that over Christmas break, he and Murphy discussed the subject and decided to bring up the issue at the next SGA meeting.
“We then decided that a resolution passed by the Senate would not only give SGA the opportunity to stand with those within our community, but to display our rejection of the objectification [of] any individual whether it be in the form of sexual harassment, coercion, or assault,” he said.
“It is our hope that this resolution is just the beginning of a much larger discussion/movement on campus,” Kuncken said. “Myself, Senator Murphy, and the other senators which co-sponsored the resolution (and hopefully many others affiliated) will not only continue to speak out against these atrocities in our society, but work with organizations on campus such as KNOW MORE to raise awareness on campus, and support survivors of sexual assault.”
Kuncken hopes that SGA “will continue to stand with the victims, and advocate for a change in our culture. Myself and Senator Murphy will continue to make this a priority in our lives not just within our capacity as Senators in SGA but as members of the Seton Hall community as a whole.”
He said that they will continue the campaign to raise awareness and will partner with KNOW MORE and any other advocacy group that contacts them or SGA. He added they also want to help plan a bigger event/forum about the matter.
Kuncken invited all members of the Seton Hall community to attend the moment of silence at SGA’s next meeting.
Dean Karen Van Norman, SGA’s adviser and the associate vice president and dean of students, also spoke about the significance of the resolution.
“By passing this Resolution, the SGA is helping to bring awareness to an important issue on our campus and in our nation,” she wrote in an email. “I am proud of them for doing so.”
Academic Affairs Committee Chairman and Arts and Sciences Senator Serrano, a senior political science and philosophy major, discussed why he co-sponsored the legislation.
He wrote in an email that his motivation for doing so was because the resolution “addresses an important issue that is affecting society.”
Serrano added, “There are countless victims and it affects many on a personal level. I see this resolution as a first step for SGA to raise more awareness of this issue. The resolution is just a beginning and will be followed through with more actions with various aspects of the school community.”
Education Senator Mahmood, a sophomore secondary education, special education and history major with a minor in gender studies, also discussed her reasons for co-sponsoring the resolution.
She wrote in an email that she sponsored the legislation because it means a great deal to her.
“Survivors need support, and the moment of silence proposed forces students to think about how horrible sexual assault is and urges them to not be so desensitized to the issue,” she said. “I know that this resolution will have great beneficial impacts on the Seton Hall community.”
Mahmood added, “One of the best ways to stop sexual assault and objectification is through education and by talking about it. Before this resolution, SGA barely had this conversation that was so important – and I truly appreciate it being passed.”
Samantha Todd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.