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EventsApril 11, 2022

Men of Excellence Host Panel Discussion for Sexual Assault Awareness

Written By: Samantha Contreras

The University of Arkansas - Fort Smith’s Men of Excellence (MOX) program hosted a panel discussion, “Educate to Eradicate: A sexual assault prevention program,” as part of the university’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month slate of events.

“Our goal is to bring a positive and respectful stigma to not only men on campus but outside of it as well,” said Johnathan Brewer, a MOX historian, freshman, and media communications major. “Hosting an event like this may not be the most ‘fun’ or ‘cool,’ but it is a topic that people need to be educated on, especially on a college campus.”

The April 6 panel featured UAFS administrators Dr. Lee Krehbiel, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management and chief Title IX officer, University Police chief Ray Ottman, and Fort Smith Police captain Anthony Parkinson serves as the FSPD’s commander of criminal investigations.

“Sexual Assault is absolute,” said Parkinson, who stated that the feelings of any individual who believes they have been sexually assaulted are valid and important. “Please report it to the police. Let us investigate and help you.” 

“I think UAFS’s policies and procedures give excellent terms and understandings of what sexual assault is,” he continued, referencing the UAFS Title IX office’s website, which defines sexual assault as an offense classified as a forcible or nonforcible sex offense under the uniform crime reporting system of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The site also gives detailed information on terms used in a Title IX or sexual assault case, resources available to students, and how members of the UAFS community can report a Title IX violation of any kind. 

 According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, sexual assault and misconduct at 33 of the nation’s major universities were almost one in four undergraduate women. The NSVRC also cites nationwide statistics showing 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men reported experiencing sexual harassment and assault in their lifetime.

“The Men of Excellence and I met and talked about how we can influence our campus community to have these conversations and what we can do to help mitigate and lower the risk of sexual assault,” said Ottman, who regularly advises student groups. “When I visit with groups on campus, whether a fraternity or sorority or any group that hosts campus events, I always talk to them about their concerns and perspectives, and how we can help them stay informed.”

 During the panel, discussions were geared toward concerns of students in the campus and regional community, including defining and educating students on consent, empowering bystanders to prevent sexual assault, navigating situations that involve alcohol or though-altering substances, and ending the stigma faced by sexual assault victims. 

 “I think consent is a regulatory and a legal construct, increasingly now,” explained Krehbiel, citing the complex policies that govern Title IX enforcement and the legal intricacies that surround sexual assault cases and crimes. “I want to separate that from the important discussions about what it means to be a human being. … As we talk about consent, I think there are inclusive systems and more profound ways of thinking about our relationships that are deeper and ultimately more powerful and lasting than a legal construct can be,” he said. “And I want to challenge us to be better. It is a part of who we are as a university.”

 Throughout the discussion, Krehbiel and Ottman reiterated the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith’s commitment to providing an environment that emphasizes the dignity and worth of every member of its community free from sexual assault and harassment. The pair also encouraged university community members to reach out to campus resources, including the Title IX OfficeCounseling Center, and UAFS Police Department, whether they have been victims of a crime, witnessed a crime, or need to talk through complex issues with an expert.

The next SAAM event will be a Teal Tailgate this Friday, April 8. Students from Numa Nation will distribute teal T-shirts to continue raising awareness of sexual assault prevention efforts on campus, and Chief Ottman will grill burgers for attendees.