April 14, 2013

Summit Promotes Dialogue About Women’s Issues

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The Women’s Issues Committee of the Student Assembly held its first Cornell Women’s Summit Friday, bringing together women’s organizations in an effort to engage in meaningful dialogue about common issues, according to Juliana Batista ’16, S.A. freshman representative.

In the fall, a series of sexual assaults were reported near or on campus. The incidents spurred numerous University statements and discussions among different groups across campus. Friday’s event was facilitated by six Student Assembly members and covered topics affecting women including sexual assault, the prevalence of rape culture on campus, LGBTQ issues and gender-neutral housing.

“We thought that the University is very fragmented in terms of organizations. … We really wanted to have the Women’s Summit as a chance for all these representatives from women’s organizations across campus [to] come together,” Batista said.

Student representatives participating in the summit said they found it useful learning about other organizations targeting women’s issues on campus.

“A lot of us have different missions … but it’s nice that we’re all coming together to talk about things that we all agree on,” said Caroline Emberton, ’14, co-president of the Network of Enlightened Women. “I think it’s so important for women to come together and talk about [issues like sexual harassment] and see what women can do to really change the culture on this campus.”

The event hosted approximately 20 student organizations that are involved in women’s issues.

Representatives said Cornell must address the lack of men in dialogues about women’s issues. Out of almost 30 participants, there were just two male participants in the summit.

“Something that we talked about was how these conversations need to be expanded to incorporate male voices as well because we can’t make these changes by ourselves,” said Bailey Dineen ’15, vice president of the Cornell University Gay-Straight Alliance. “Yes, empowering women is extremely important and valuable, but we also need to bring men into the conversation to empower them to make these changes and see these as their issues as well.”

Dineen added that she would be interested in attending other meetings that bring together organizations dealing with women’s issues.

Echoinc Dineen’s sentiments, Batista said she would also like to maintain the connections forged through the summit.

“It’s the conception and the start of doing more of these sort of outreach events through the Student Assembly, really trying to bridge those communities across campus,” she said. “We’d like to make it an annual thing and see how things change and progress over time.”

Emberton said a gathering like the Women’s Summit could spur tangible change on campus.

“I think often times campuses, they just have these dialogues and discussions, but they don’t necessarily have any proposals. I think something like this will lead to proposals, which is nice,” she said.

Original Author: Kritika Oberoi