Student Council launched a website Friday in conjunction with advocacy groups One Less and One in Four titled “Rolling Stone Must Unite Us, Not Divide Us.”
The site hosts a litany of information for students — about the resources available through the University for survivors of sexual assault, the policies and legal restraints in place, and ways students can get involved to help combat the prevalence of sexual violence, both by joining advocacy groups and becoming an active bystander.
The site also offers students a platform to give Council policy proposals or raise concerns about sexual misconduct on Grounds.
The site, which was launched Friday afternoon in an email signed by the leaders of Student Council, One Less and One in Four, was spearheaded by Council President Jalen Ross, a fourth-year Engineering student, in light of recent allegations of rape and sexual misconduct at the University.
“Today, we call on one another to make this University the safe haven it ought to be,” the email said. “Take a minute to learn more, to become an advocate, or to voice your opinions. Take a moment to tell your story, or to support a survivor with loving strength.”
Ross said the idea for the website was put in motion last Wednesday following the release of the Rolling Stone article, which detailed a graphic account of gang rape at a Phi Kappa Psi fraternity part in Sept. 2012.
“We called an emergency executive meeting on Wednesday night,” Ross said. “What we started with was asking ourselves what our students needed.”
Once a course of action was decided, Ross led the creation of the website and was involved in both the design and assembly of content. Third-year Engineering student Adam Wulchin, Council’s chief technology officer, was also highly involved in the site’s creation. Council representatives Blake Calhoun, a fourth-year College student, and second-year College student Catalina Pinto contributed to the site’s content.
The website itself is composed of eight tabs: I am a Survivor, Show Your Support, Get Involved, Change the Policy, I Know Someone Who Has Been Assaulted, Hear My Voice, “Rape Should be an Honor Offense” and What Can I Do.
The website includes links to the Facebook pages for several organizations active on grounds, including Student Watch, Take Back the Night, Green Dot and the newly-formed Buddies on Call.
“I think it’s really important for Student Council to work with these groups,” said third-year Commerce student Faith Lyons, Student Council director of university relations. “We’re really dedicated to helping their efforts and making sure that this conversation continues.”
Lyons said the website is an important resource for students who did not know where to turn for answers in regard to the current sexual misconduct policy, what is actively happening on Grounds and advocacy and support groups present at the University.
“I think having a centralized resource where you can both share your opinion about what’s going on, and also have resources for information, is really important,” Lyons said.
Ross said the foremost target audience was students, though other members of the community are welcome to access the website and use it as a resource.
“There are people who are responding to this who aren’t students, and that’s completely OK,” Ross said. “If a professor wants to use [the site], they can do the same things that their students can.”
Under the “Hear My Voice” tab, users can post their thoughts on the current sexual misconduct policy at the University, and offer ideas for revisions. Once a post is made, other users can then rate it with a neutral response, or one, two or three stars. Comments are also welcomed.
“It’s important to me that we have a way for people to react to this, and get them credible information,” Ross said.
Though many students have not yet explored the site, first-year College student Sarah Quettawala has accessed the link. She said she appreciates the opportunity for all voices at the University to be heard in one place.
“As one student among 23,000, it is easy for even the loudest voices to go unheard,” Quettawala said. “This website is a phenomenal, and necessary, addition to the U.Va. community.”