The hashtag ‘Me Too’ was first used by Tarana Burke in 2007. In a 2017 New York Times article, written by reporter Sandra Garcia, Burke explained establishing the hashtag because of a conversation she had years prior with a 13-year-old girl who had been sexually abused. Garcia wanted to communicate to others, like that young girl, that they are not alone in their experience. In 2017, as many know, the ‘Me Too’ movement was at its peak.
The university is facing this topic unafraid and has decided to “lean” into this conversation after allegations of OU student sexual misconduct appeared on social media. “I have directed our leadership to actively embrace this ‘Me Too’ moment at Oakwood University,” said President Leslie Pollard in his first public address on the issue. “While we would not have chosen the issue in the way that it came to us, the moment chose us. It’s our turn. And we will ‘lean in’ and become a stronger and healthier university by seizing this unique moment,” he concluded. Oakwood leaders immediately moved into action to ensure students know they are not alone in confronting this issue. The university leadership team facilitated small group conversations with students in all of the on-campus residence halls, West Oaks Apartments, as well as with students who live off-campus. During these evening sessions (pictured), students shared their thoughts about the recent events and the things they believe would help the student body as a whole to feel safe on campus. Students who could not attend will also have the opportunity to submit their feedback through an internet-based survey process. The USM leadership team and the AYM team joined the planning and listening sessions as active contributors to the conversation.
Listening and feedback sessions were also conducted at the University’s monthly Leadership Academy which consists of all Administrators, Deans, Chairs, Department Heads, and general supervisors. The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees was briefed on the the issue to guarantee that the Trustees have accurate information on how the institution is responding.
A preliminary list of suggestions was compiled by recording secretaries in each gathering. The information was then synthesized by administrators into several categories that will form the basis of further action for the “Me Too” Taskforce that has been organized. On and off-campus stakeholders presented these actions as urgent. The categories are:
- Dating and relationships
- Physical safety and self-defense
- Environmental safety and University transportation
- Protocols for reporting sexual misconduct
- Accessing counseling and support services
- Application of spirituality to decision making