In their Oct. 8 column “Fail: Freshmen Required to Create Sexual Assault Memes,” Taylor Majewski and Lucy Stewart express concern over one of Residential Education and Housing Services’ (REHS) and Project SAFE’s recent prevention education programs. The activity, facilitated by Residential Advisors (RAs) at FYRE sessions, asked students to review Oxy-specific data from Think About It and present and interpret it in a culturally relevant way—in this case, by making memes. Students were neither asked nor encouraged to make “jokes” about sexual violence of any kind. Rather, we hoped the activity would allow students to consider and incorporate their own thoughts about the social norms that shape Oxy. The particular myths that the activity sought to bust are all prevalent in our media culture. The purpose of the program, then, was to tap into that same media culture and invert its message; to use social media as a tool to dispel myths rather than perpetuate them. Incorporating culturally relevant materials into advocacy work is recognized as a best practice in research regarding sexual violence prevention and has played a key role in the movement against sexual assault. How can we change social norms if not through the outlets that shape them?
When we presented the “meme” idea to RAs and ResEd staff back in August, we received highly positive feedback and encouraged ongoing communication. Clearly, we need to take a look at our feedback loop and figure out how we can get a better assessment of our programs. (We welcome feedback: students can always contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org). Project SAFE is committed to working with our community and finding ways to empower our students in any way possible to end violence. We apologize that the intentions of the activity did not always come through in its implementation. Not everything we try will succeed, which is why your direct feedback is necessary and extremely valuable.
Project SAFE Manager and Survivor Advocate