On the Friday of Halloweekend, Oct. 27, the Student Assembly members provided students heading to or coming back from a night out with a place to reflect on how their night was going and ensure the safety of students to reduce the risk of sexual assault, according to Andrew Rosenblatt ’20, vice chairman of the Student Assembly Health and Wellness Committee.
“Wind Down Zones” were set up outside the Schwartz Performing Arts Center and on the green between Hans Bethe House and Flora Rose House with tents and heaters where food and water was provided for partygoers, who could chat with volunteers in the area.
“I don’t think Cornell is unsafe, but people do unsafe things,” said Ruwanthi Ekanayake ’20, a member of the S.A. committee and a planner of the Wind Down Zones. Indeed, there were moments, she explained, where volunteers could sense things were wrong and took action to separate a couple or a group.
“There were definitely people that came back throughout the night that when they felt uncomfortable or just wanted company they knew we were there,” Hailey Sokoloff ’20, one of the planners for the Wind Down Zones, told The Sun. “So I think even if we’re not sure how exactly our interventions or just being there helped people, there was a general feeling that it was positive.”
“People just kind of wanted to chill,” Cynthia Shen ’20, chair of the committee, told The Sun in an interview. Initially, organizers worried that students may just grab food and leave without taking any time to reflect on their night. However, Cynthia explained that students actually ended up hanging out and chatting with friends.
In a follow up survey, when asked what impact the Wind Down Zone had on student wellbeing, 90 percent of volunteers running the zones said they believe the zones had a positive or extremely positive impact.
With the help of several other organizations such as West Campus Houses, Alpha Epsilon Delta, Cornell Health and others, the Wind Down Zones served nearly 700 students and gave out 82 condoms according to the committee members.
“I thought the Student Assembly had a good idea when they reached out, and so the five assistant deans all decided it would be a good opportunity,” said Jeff Godowski, assistant dean of Flora Rose House. After the health and wellness committee reached out to him earlier in the year, Godowski said, he and other West Campus deans decided to take part in the event to provide logistical support, funding and advertising.
“We can all come together as different student organizations to create that safe net before something bad happens,” Ekanayake said.