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Gender violence presentation fires up student body

Anti-sexist+activist+Jackson+Katz+debriefs+on+Gender+Violence+presentation+with+a+small+group+of+students.+
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Gender violence presentation fires up student body

Anti-sexist activist Jackson Katz debriefs on Gender Violence presentation with a small group of students.

Anti-sexist activist Jackson Katz debriefs on Gender Violence presentation with a small group of students.

Marin Guta

Anti-sexist activist Jackson Katz debriefs on Gender Violence presentation with a small group of students.

Marin Guta

Marin Guta

Anti-sexist activist Jackson Katz debriefs on Gender Violence presentation with a small group of students.

Marin Guta, Digital Editor

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The SHAPE Q&A session on gender violence in Willingham Hall sparked a controversial debate Tuesday night.   

Over 800 students attended anti-sexist activist Jackson Katz’s lecture, “Taking it Personally: Why Gender Violence is an Issue for Men.” The event was mandatory for student athletes, students of the Greek community and a handful of students who were required to go for class.

Katz’s presentation touched on how sexual violence bystanders have a responsibility to speak up, and he also challenged students on how they view sexual assault. During the early portion of Katz’s lecture, distracted students listened and scrolled through their social media feeds on their phones.

When Katz opened the floor for the question and answer portion, the conversation heated up.

The first question came from sophomore Tyler Arnold who said he felt disappointed that Katz’s presentation did not include women’s violence against men. Arnold cited  2012 study from the Center for Disease Control, showing 40 percent of men were victims of sexual violence to justify his point that these types of abuses or assaults weren’t given enough attention.

Arnold’s question elicited an applause from the audience.

Senior Chancey Straily, who agreed with Arnold, stood up from her seat and said she found Katz’s talk to be offensive. She said she didn’t see how Katz could dismiss the male victims of sexual violence and then seek their help. She also said that she didn’t believe women needed to be saved by men.

The crowd’s growing chatter and sporadic applause made it difficult for Katz to hear the other questions.

“I’m sorry,” Katz said. “The acoustics in this room are terrible.”

The audience became restless and shouted out their opinions as Katz continued the Q&A. He paused a couple of moments to wipe the sweat off his forehead and struggled to regain the audience’s attention.

“My emotional response is that I spent an hour talking about this issue, and it all got high jacked with the first question,” Katz said to the crowd during the Q&A.

As the room’s temperature and emotions steadily climbed, students fanned themselves with presentation surveys handed out by SHAPE. Katz took two more questions and then shifted the talk to the media’s perception on gender violence by showing a couple of clips from a documentary.

Katz said he planned on showing one more clip but was unable to because of technical difficulties. Before Katz could make his closing remarks, students got up from their seats and filed out of the auditorium.

Some students who remained in the audience said that they were shocked that students left before the end of the presentation.

“At Mercer, we believe we have an extremely accepting environment, and I was set off by the blatant disrespect,” said sophomore Reed Jones. “I hold Mercer Bears to a higher standard, and this goes against how I think Mercerians should act.”

Mercer’s Title IX Coordinator Melissa Nunn, who coordinated the event, anticipated backlash from students.

“I know our students are not getting the point,” she said. “We still have a lot more education to do.”

However, the verbal parrying didn’t douse Nunn’s optimism. Instead, she said she felt encouraged to see students get passionate about the topic.

“It was a total success . . . I had not seen students so passionate, and there was obviously energy in the room,” she said.

At the end of the talk, a small group of students gathered around Katz to ask more questions, some of them apologizing for their peers’ disrespect.

Katz said he anticipated a certain level of resistance from a mandatory event, and he viewed the event as a success because students were engaged.

“I think it’s was a positive educational evening,” he said. “Overall, I give Mercer an A for the event.”

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5 Comments

5 Responses to “Gender violence presentation fires up student body”

  1. Anonymous on January 28th, 2016 12:46 am

    The real backlash is that students are being forced to go to these lectures (this is not the first one I’ve been made to go to). I don’t know what the threat against athletes was, but the threat for Greeks not attending was that they would not be able to move into the chapter houses until a date later than the usual one. It is in the school’s right to do that, because the houses are a part of Mercer’s campus (and therefore their property to an extent, IIRC). However, it makes the students forced to go feel like children attending another lecture they’ve already been forced to hear in orientation, UNV101, and mandatory online courses as mandated by Title IX.

    Many athletes and Greeks feel targeted by this. Why are they the ones forced to be at this lecture against violence and sexual assault? It suggests that these are the people that are the rapists or abusers, which although may be statistically accurate, it doesn’t make it fair for these specific organizations to be the only ones targeted by the school. And you may be thinking, “It’s one lecture; how bad can it be?” Well, Willingham doesn’t have anywhere close to enough room to seat every athlete, Greek, and a handful of others. Many people were bunched up on the floor, several of them not even able to have a line of sight to the stage, presenter, or projector image/video. So of course they played on their phones. As mentioned, it got very hot and uncomfortable due to the immense amount of people there. The wifi actually stopped working because so many people’s phones were connected to it in that immediate vicinity. And the lecture ran way longer than was ever intended (probably due to the Q&A and technical difficulties). People began to leave as the end of the presentation encountered technical difficulties, which was clearly not going to be resolved.

    After all of it, the Greek organizations were told not to sign-in for the attendance because there were too many people, and it would have taken too long, and everyone could tell enough people were probably there. To top it all off, Greeks are being told that they have to discuss the meeting for 15 minutes in their next chapter meetings. What chapters do with their right to free assembly is none of the business of the school, as long as it violates no laws. Overall, it was poorly coordinated, uncomfortable, and demeaning.

  2. Marin Guta on January 29th, 2016 1:46 pm

    Thanks for reading the article. Would you be interested in maybe writing an opinions article on the lecture? I think students would like to hear your view point. From my understanding, Melissa Nunn said that there was no other facility on campus to house the event (other than Hawkins Arena which is always booked). I was reporting on what I was observing when I mentioned how students were on their phones, but I also made sure to include that the seating arrangements weren’t very comfortable, which may of explained why students were eager to leave the facility.

  3. Joshua Whitfield on January 28th, 2016 10:11 am

    As an alumnus I’m shocked by the flippant attitude with which these students treated the subject matter of this event. I used to be a strong believer in Mercer’s “Community of Respect,” but not so much after this kind of behavior.

  4. Donna de la Perriere (BA, 1982) on January 29th, 2016 11:32 pm

    Shame on these students. They should embarrass and horrify us all, not only as Mercer alums but as human beings. What a sickening example of misogyny and raging entitlement. What a perfect example of rape culture in action. Shame on them for dismissing (and thereby supporting) violence against women — and shame on Mercer for trying to spin this event as a success.

  5. Donna de la Perriere (BA, 1982) on January 29th, 2016 11:33 pm

    Shame on these students. Their behavior should embarrass and horrify us all, not only as Mercer alums but as human beings. What a sickening example of misogyny and raging entitlement. What a perfect example of rape culture in action. Shame on them for dismissing (and thereby supporting) violence against women — and shame on Mercer for trying to spin this event as a success.

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Gender violence presentation fires up student body