Kalamazoo, MI
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Health

S3A Transitions to SPEAK

Ellen Lassiter Collier, Director Gender Equality Ellen Lassiter Collier, Director Gender Equality

On Wednesday of second week, the student body received an email from Director of Gender Equity Ellen Lassiter Collier that the Sexual Safety and Support Alliance Team (S3A) will dissolve at the end of the 2016/2017 school year and be replaced by the Sexual Peer Education Alliance at K (SPEAK).

The email put to rest whisperings that S3A, which has provided confidential, peer-to-peer services and education for the past six years, would simply disappear, leaving student survivors of sex and gender-based violence without support.

The organization will instead be rebranded, with current S3A members being invited to become a part of the SPEAK team as well as those who undergo an application process. This new student group will work more closely with Lassiter Collier, who explained that its purpose will shift from post-assault support to focus on preventative measures.

“I am a big believer in peer education, I used that model at my last institution and found it incredibly successful,” she said.

In practice, this will involve SPEAK members working alongside Lassiter Collier to, as the email stated, “facilitate education and training during events such as First Year Forums, Community Reflections, Peer Leader and RA training, and class presentations.”

Lassiter Collier plans to further develop existing programs in order to orchestrate workshops on topics such as consent, sexual assault, relationship violence, and healthy relationships. She hopes to create several on masculinity and rape culture as well.

Those who have been sexually assaulted can now talk to staff in the Counseling Center or a trained professional from the YWCA. Heather Dannison, Outreach Coordinator at the Counseling Center, spoke via email on the services they provide, saying that in addition to offering the Sexual Assault Support group and an on-call counselor for 24-hour crisis support, (reachable by calling K’s security office at 7321),

“We also want to make sure students know that we have a relatively new service for students – the 2PM hour every weekday is set aside for walk-in crisis. Students can access this service by ringing the white doorbell on the credenza, which is located off of the waiting room,” she wrote.

It’s a sticky situation with many sides to it. I guess we will find out if the risks outweighed the benefits now that S3A is gone

Professional advocates from the YWCA will be on campus for four hours each week as an alternative to resources provided by K. In addition to attending on-campus events like Take Back the Night, Lassiter Collier said that these new faces will most likely have their photos on posters hung around campus in the way that S3A has, so that they may be easily recognizable to, and reachable for students. The YWCA also provides a 24-hour crisis line (269-385-3587) and a nurse exam for those affected by sexual violence.

Current S3A member Emily Kowey ’17 was optimistic about the effects of the shift on the student body. “In the past S3A has provided more responsive services to this campus while also offering some preventative education, so I am excited for the outreach potential that SPEAK will have for Kalamazoo College,” she said.

Mary Burnett ’18 chose to leave S3A upon hearing the announcement. “I didn’t like that it was very much a top down decision,” she said.

Burnett explained that she understood why the decision was made, citing that, though extremely valuable, there was potential risk in having students function as confidential sources.

“It’s a sticky situation with many sides to it. I guess we will find out if the risks outweighed the benefits now that S3A is gone,” she said.

Burnett’s statements echoed what other members and Lassiter Collier herself have said about the current expectations placed on S3A members.

Despite the success of the peer-to-peer confidential support provided by the organization, “it’s still a lot of emotional work to ask students to do,” Lassiter Collier said.

She encourages those with questions or concerns about this transition to email or meet with her.

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S3A Transitions to SPEAK