Jeffrey Chang / Highlander
Jeffrey Chang / Highlander

Last Wednesday, UCR students came together on campus for a “Carry That Weight” event to raise awareness of sexual assault and violence on college campuses. Organized by ASUCR Senator Summer Shafer, the event was one of many others that have occurred in colleges all across the nation in solidarity with Emma Sulkowicz, a student from Columbia University who was raped by a fellow student. In protest of Columbia University’s actions and as a performance art piece, Sulkowicz is carrying her dorm room mattress with her wherever she goes.

About 50 students attended with some carrying mattresses or pillows while marching through the HUB and around the Bell Tower to display their support for Sulkowicz. Thirty college campuses last year were accused of mishandling sexual assault cases, including two in the UC system.

Shafer has been working across the campus this year with administrators to better the management of sexual assault cases. “I have been working with a lot of our administration, especially with Susan Allen Ortega, to work towards consent culture on our campus and not rape culture,” Shafer said.

Shafer has also taken part with the UC Office of the President’s task force for sexual assault and sexual violence. According to her, some of the solutions which the task force seeks to implement include a one-stop shop for survivors so they are not forced to repeatedly tell their story to police, advisors and health officials as a part of the sexual assault reporting process. “This idea would be that they would only need to tell their story once and that all the people and the resources they would need would be in one place,” Shafer stated.

Currently, the gender studies breadth requirement, which ASUCR approved last June, is under academic review. According to Shafer, the goal of the requirement is to help spread knowledge on rape culture, sexism and homophobia that occur throughout society in an effort to address and stop these issues.

UCR reported six cases of forcible sex offenses in 2012, five in 2011 and five in 2010, according to a local news report.

UCR students attending the event also weighed in on the issue of sexual assault. “I personally believe that UCR does a good job in addressing this issue. I receive a lot of information regarding clubs and events that bring awareness to issues like this,” Eduardo Contreras, a third-year anthropology major stated.

Martha Pineda, a third-year sociology major, differed and said, “I feel like maybe professors or mentors or counselors can give out resources — such as the Rape Crisis Center, the Women’s resource center, the LGBT center are all really great resources which help the students out.”