CT State Representative, Jillian Gilchrest visits UHart

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CT State Representative, Jillian Gilchrest visits UHart

Mason Brooks, Managing Editor

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CT State Representative, Jillian Gilchrest (D), visited the University of Hartford on Thursday, September 26, to talk to students about the politics of sex.

This event took place at the Shaw Center in Hillyer Hall, and was open to all students and faculty at the University.

In a room of about 40 spectators, the discussion was guided by moderator, Dr. Melinda Miceli, an associate professor in the social science department at the University of Hartford, with the audience having the opportunity to ask the representative questions as well.

Jillian Gilchrest began by discussing some of the factors that have been driving the conversation about sexual assault on campus

.  While she went on to mention multiple factors such as a growing number of Title IX inquiries and the 2016 election, what Gilchrest really pointed out as being a strong influence on the campus sexual assault conversation, was social media.

Gilchrest emphasized, “by having this new voice in social media, I believe women have a voice like never before.

”Social media allows everyone with access to the internet to log on, and share their thoughts.

With many women taking to Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms, it allows them to share their stories, and reach a wide audience.

Gilchrest even noted that the #MeToo movement in 2017 would have never been possible without people using social media to spread that message.

According to the state representative, this idea of having a code of conduct for sexual assault on campus is relatively new.

In 2014, the Connecticut state legislature passed Public Act 14-11,  which essentially requires all CT public institutions to meet certain criteria concerning their sexual assault policies. A big takeawy from the policy is that college campuses are now required to advertise their sexual assault policy, and guidelines, so that every student knows how to identify sexual assault, and where to go if such an incident occurs.

“Until that point, campuses didn’t advertise anyhwere really what the sexual assault policy guidelines were”, Jillian Gilchrest said as she spoke of the importance of the CT legislature.

A theme that Gilchrest wanted to make clear to the audience, and what many people may not understand, is that sexual assault cases on college campuses are treated as a school conduct issue, and not neccessarily as a criminal case.

When such an instance arises, the school will always handle it according to their conduct policy, but it is up to the victim whether or not they want to pursue it as a criminal case.“The hope is that, when a student does report, what should be made clear to a student is all of their available options” Gilchrest said.  “It’s important because… there are a lot of reasons not to pursue a case in the criminal justice system.”The CT state representative added that many victims are not looking for their assailant to be criminally charged, or even expelled, just that, “the majority of students that come forward are looking for a way to protect themselves.”

Clearly, college campuses are left with a lot of responsibility when it comes to dealing with sexaul assault cases.  Towards the end of the event, the moderator, Dr. Miceli, asked this, “are college campuses doing enough to combat sexual violence today?”

For the most part, Gilchrest seemed to believe that colleges are making steps in the right direction, but could be doing a lot more to fight sexual violence on their campus. It almost seems that on today’s college campus, “certain boxes have to be checked”, according to Gilchrest.

This meaning, that although colleges are meeting their requirements for sexual assault policy and prevention, there is definitely more they could achieve.One thing Jillian Gilchrest would like to see is more conversation to discuss today’s political and sexual culture.

“It’d be great if there were opportunities to have these robust conversations to unpack the culture that got us to this place,’’ Gilchrest stated.Overall, the state representative seemed optimistic about the direction we are headed in.

“I think women have found their voice again,’’ Gilchrest said. On college campuses all across the country, we are seeing more and more of a pushback against sexual violence.

Whether it be through state legislature enforcing institutions to adopt a more comprehensive policy, social media helping ideas reach a larger audience, or just through women finding their voice again, sexual assault is becoming a more prevelant focus on college campuses.

However, even with all of the positives she spoke about, Gilchrest made sure to add, “We have a long way to go.” She spoke about how America still runs on a sexist system.

“We live in a culture where a lot of people assume women are liars,’’ she said. “we need men to get in there and challenge all of the microaggressions against women”

IMAGE COURTESY OF MASON BROOKS