Lennox Cao/Sun Staff Photographer

Students attend an "Our Bodies, Their Laws" event earlier in the semester. The final installment of this event series included collaborations with student groups to discuss sexual assault and date-rape drugs.

November 13, 2022

“Our Bodies, Their Laws” has Final Installment to Discuss Coalition Building, Community Engagement and Recent Reports of Sexual Assault on Campus

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The final installment of the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program’s event series on Friday, Nov. 11, included coalition building and community engagement, with the addition of a community discussion about date-rape drugs and sexual assaults on campus. 

The event was led by Chief Executive Officer and Founding Member of the Advocacy Project Asha Prabhat ’24 and Prof. Jane Juffer, feminist, gender and sexuality studies. 

“Student organizations are doing really important work,” Prabhat said. “It’s overlapping with other people’s work, or they don’t know that another group exists that could connect them with other resources. So I wanted to create a space where people’s work can be explained.” 

Student groups who were present included the Sexual Assault Prevention and Safety Group (SAPS), the LGBT Resource Center, Cornell Planned Parenthood, Consent Ed, ILR Women’s Caucus, the Cornell Prison Educaton Project and the Women’s Resource Center. 

Starting the discussion, students from Juffer’s class Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies 3000: Feminist Theory, shared their work about bodily autonomy through four areas of focus: Intersectionality, prisons/detention centers, transnational feminism and gender-affirming care for transgender youth. 

Students who presented on intersectionality highlighted that asylum seekers and undocumented people face disproportionately higher challenges to accessing abortion and protecting their reproductive rights, especially after the Dobbs v. Jackson’s decision. 

The students from the class that presented on gender-affirming care for transgender youth explained that 16 states in the United States do not have a human rights program for gender-expansive children and adolescents, and many states only have one or just a few. 

Students also talked about the lack of reproductive agency that women in prison have in deciding the terms of their birth. Women in prison can’t choose whether they want a midwife or a doctor, where they are giving birth, or, in some cases, whether or not they want to give birth at all. 

The pres that focused on transnational feminism warned against grouping women from certain cultures and regions together, and that what feminism means to one audience may mean something else to another. 

After the FGSS students’ presentation, leaders opened up the floor to the audience and prompted a discussion to gauge students’ thoughts on Cornell’s response to the recent reports of sexual assault and date-rape drugging on campus. 

One student in attendance said that while Cornell’s move to cancel fraternity parties was notable, more planning between students and faculty is required to create better spaces to discuss issues. 

While others thought that IFC’s decision to suspend fraternity parties did not get to the root of the issue, saying that sexual assault is an issue at-large and is not limited to the walls of a fraternity. 

“I’m not saying Cornell isn’t doing enough, I just don’t think they know what to do,” said Mary Benjamin ’25.  “To me, I feel just as safe in a frat house as I do in a bar surrounded by strangers. There’s obviously issues in the system, but I don’t think that canceling mixers is a solution.”

Other students voiced that Cornell hasn’t done enough. 

“I really don’t think anyone else has done enough in terms of what happened over the past week,” said Sydney Browne ’23. “The ball is largely in IFC’s court… Obviously not every male in a frat is responsible, but I don’t agree that there isn’t an onus on frat houses, because they set a culture. When you allow one or two to get away with this, it’s not that individual, it’s the whole house that’s setting that culture.” 

Other students took a larger view of what fraternity parties represent as a whole in our culture. 

“I think if we’re going to talk about the cultural change that needs to occur, it needs to involve a reframing of what partying within college even is,” said Nic Oke ’26.  

After the discussion, the event moved to its final segment, which was an introduction of all the student groups that attended the event in hopes to promote more collaboration between groups on campus. 

Prahbat explained the significance of coalition building in creating change. 

“Coalition is not just planning an event with another organization. It’s creating a network of people who move together in collaboration when things occur not just in reaction but in proactivity,” Prahbat said. “Advocacy is greatest in numbers. It’s really important to build a network with each other.”