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PODCAST: Columbia Activist Fights to Fix University's 'Rape Problem'

By Emily Frost | April 15, 2015 11:18am
 Student activists have been unrelenting in their push for changes at Columbia University regarding the handling of rape and sexual assault on campus. 
Changing Rape Culture at Columbia University
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UPPER WEST SIDE — When Columbia University senior Emma Sulkowicz went public with the school's handling of her alleged on-campus rape, she touched a nerve among classmates who said her experience at the college was not singular. 

Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, 22, also a senior, was one of those students. For her, seeing a "strong" and "empowered" woman like Sulkowicz speak out gave her the courage not only to accept that she had also been sexually assaulted, but to talk about it publicly in an effort to galvanize others to push for policy change.

The two women helped form the campus group No Red Tape, which seeks to change how university administrators handle rape and sexual assault complaints.

Their activism — in the form of rallies, storming the university president's house, interrupting info sessions and a public art piece involving carrying a mattress around campus — has sparked national interest.

DNAinfo reporter Emily Frost sat down with Ridolfi-Starr to talk about what's been accomplished, what still has to change and what's next for her in the fight. 

Emily: You said that Emma coming forward gave you the courage to come forward. Can you talk about that turning point of why you decided to talk publicly about rape and your rapes?

Zoe: It was a really pivotal moment in my life and also in my understanding of who I am and how as a person I moved through the world, knowing that this has been a part of my experiences. When I was first sexually assaulted, I came back, and the next day, I told someone. I had been in a relationship at the time actually, and so I told the person that I was dating, and he reacted so badly.

It’s taken me a long time, but I don’t hold that against him, because in the same way that I wasn’t really equipped, I didn’t have the vocabulary, or the definitions, or the space, or cultural understanding to really analyze what had happened to me and say, “This is sexual assault, and when you’re sexually assaulted, these are the right things to say. When somebody comes to you in one of those moments, these are the right things to say.” I didn’t know that. He certainly didn’t know that. We had no education about it.

Even as someone who’s grown up very heavily immersed in like a feminist environment, I just didn’t … I didn’t know. I didn’t know how to map that like general knowledge that rape is bad on to my experience. I told him, and he said I cheated on him, and that I shouldn’t have been drinking so much. I also felt a lot of guilt and shame about those pieces of what happened to me, and for flirting, and for going to the party in the first place, like all of those things that I would never say to someone else, but it was very hard for me to disentangle in my own experiences.

Emily: This was a party on campus or this was when you were...?

Zoe: Yeah, a frat house on campus, and then a student apartment, and then … And it was just painful, and I didn’t talk about it again. I just didn’t speak about it. I didn’t tell friends. I certainly didn’t tell family. I didn’t report it. I never felt that that would have been an option for me, knowing what I knew about the failures of Columbia’s existing reporting policies, but also, struggling to even define it as concretely as sexual assault. It was a long time before I ever said even to myself like I was sexually assaulted.

Then about a month later, I was sexually assaulted again. That one was for more clear-cut in my mind. I certainly at that point recognized it as a terrifying, and violent behavior, and … But still didn’t say to someone like, “I was sexually assaulted,” and I just never did. I had my whole sophomore year. It was a mess. I was like depressed. I developed disordered eating habits. I was anxious. I felt isolated, and just never mentioned it, and just carried on.

It’s not like I was walking around feeling like I have a secret that I can’t tell anyone. I just didn’t go there. I just didn’t ask myself a question, let alone answer it. I just tried to move through it. It did not work, and it wasn’t until … And I knew that I was not happy on campus. I didn’t feel safe on campus. I felt anxiety and scrutiny. I didn’t feel like I could be myself here. I felt very unsafe and anxious all the time, and so I went abroad. I studied abroad the next year like as soon as I could.

While I was abroad, a friend ended up disclosing to me that she had experienced sexual assault. And this was at the same time that Emma had started speaking out as well as a few other survivors had started speaking out here on campus, but I was in Argentina, so I was reading online these articles, and I was seeing these petitions start to happen. I was thinking, “Wow, this is happening in my community,” and so this … The thoughts were coming up, questions that I had not had the courage or the space, given myself the space to really untangle in my own experiences. They were starting to come up.

At the same time, a friend disclosed to me, and intuitively like reflexively, without even thinking about it, I said … I remember saying, “I know exactly what you’re feeling." What? Do I? Why did I say that? Just the more I thought about it, the more clear it was like I know exactly what she’s feeling. I know what those tremors are like. I know what a panic attack looks like. I know what it feels like to be triggered. I know how complex it makes future sexual relationships. I know how it impacts the way that you like navigate questions of control in your life like eating and schedules.

All of a sudden, it was so clear to me that like many of these things that I had struggled with were very obviously results of what I had experienced, and that what I had experienced was sexual assault, and that's the reason I had felt so drawn to and emotionally compelled by Emma coming forward and my friend sharing her story with me was because it resonated with me, and helped me validate my experiences, and helps me see myself and understand what had happened to me, and then the long-term impact of what had happened to me too.

This is my new project. I’m going to get back to campus, and I’m going to take ownership of this experience by taking action on it. I’ve always thought of myself as like a very empowered, confident, capable person, and it was really tough to reconcile that sense of self with the reality that I had been victimized. Emma also is so … There are so many women and so many other survivors who by sharing their story help articulate a more complicated, more human illustration of who are the people affected by this, and what does it mean to live your life after going through this kind of experience.

I absolutely credit Emma as well as other survivors who came forward on other campuses with giving me the framework and the confidence to fit myself into that, and to know like I can be a powerful, strong person, and also recognize that this kind of violence affected me. For me, it just made a lot of sense to like turn to activism because I had already been an activist. I started having conversations with some student government people, with some administrators, and for me, the important part was survivors.

I still had never like publicly spoken about being a survivor and only ever done so with other people who were survivors. I’m lucky that there are no cultural, or familial, or religious, or political reasons that coming forward would harm me other than it subjects me to like scrutiny and like online harassment. I’m also lucky that I always planned to work in public interest, so it hopefully will never be an issues for me that I’ve been so public and engaged.

I imagine that for a lot of other people, they don’t want to be Googleable as “rape girl” for the rest of their lives, and I respect and appreciate that. It’s like personally exhausting to put yourself out there in that way, so I don’t think that like publicly sharing your story is necessary the right way to go about engaging on this issue, but for me, it was.

We just realized how deeply embedded the systematic mishandling of sexual violence and dating violence on our campus is. How pervasive the issue was, but also how incredibly flawed all of the systems set up to respond to them, and all of the existing resources were just totally inadequate across the board. In some cases, administrators who were down right cruel, and harmful, and actively created very dangerous and difficult situations for students.

Emily:  What were some of the top issues that you immediately wanted to address?

Zoe: Some of the other issues are the severity of the sanctions that are handed down. Still to this day, even under what they’ve boasted as a much improved revised policy, Columbia still sanctions individuals who are found responsible, which is the university equivalent of guilty. Responsible for nonconsensual sexual intercourse, which is effectively rape, but that’s the language that they use. They still frequently hand down sanctions like one or two-semester suspensions, and that’s simply intolerable.

Emily: They never expel a student, and they never have?

Zoe: As far as I know, as far as I’ve seen the data to back up, they never have. In fact, in the meeting I was just at, they for the first time said they have expelled a student for that, but I have yet to see the data to back that up, and I have never anecdotally heard of a case where they did.

Emily: You guys are fighting for that to be a tougher sanction?

Zoe: Absolutely. We don’t think it should be mandated across the board because there are a lot of reasons that a survivor may want something else, so what we advocate for is a preferred sanction of expulsion like that would be the assumed response with the decision-makers given discretion, and to alter it, but provide a written explanation for why if they’re going to depart from the preferred sanction and that both parties should be able to give an impact statement that would explain what they want.

For us, that’s really important to give the survivor a sense of agency, and a real voice in the process, and say, “I don’t want to ever see this person again on campus,” or, “I just need a break. I just need a time to heal, and they can come back. For me, it’s okay if they come back." Right? It’s important that the survivor has the space to contribute to the process in that way.

Across the board, we were seeing shoddy investigation processes, investigators missing key details, failing to contact witnesses, refusing to contact witnesses, incorrectly taking down notes. They won’t record any interviews. They only take hand-written notes as a policy. They still do this, which means they miss details. Then, when survivors go back to correct it, sometimes they actually make the corrections, but many other times, they’ll add like an addendum to the end of the report, which makes it sound like instead of the investigator made a mistake, the survivor changed their story.

The same thing could also happen with the perpetrator, right? When we we’re thinking about, “How do we strengthen these processes and make them most fair and equitable for everyone involved?” That’s a big part of the puzzle is streamlining and professionalizing the investigation process.

Emily: In the spring, you started holding rallies?

Zoe: I had to hear from other survivors that my experience counted. Emma was one of a handful of people who are also survivors who spent so much time and energy with me like sitting down and talking about our experiences, and me saying like, “But I don’t have bruises, but I didn’t fight and scream, but I was really drunk like … And I had been flirting with him.” Like I really needed to have people validate for me that my experience counted, and I can’t like overstate the importance of that for me psychologically.

It’s so difficult to disentangle yourself from heavily internalized culture that places the blame on the victim, but I had not been able to do that, and I really relied on a few people who really I hadn’t been close to in that way before, but became hugely important people in my life now, and I completely credit with giving me the strength, and love, and confidence I needed to even name it myself, and then think about sharing that, sharing that publicly.

Emily: Rape culture was one of the things that No Red Tape, and then later on, the group Carry That Weight, wanted to change … It wasn’t just about the policy level. It was about rape culture at Columbia.

Zoe: Thinking about how little it bothers us when we hear people talking about using alcohol as a tool of sexual coercion like that is so normal, I hear it every weekend, and it just sends shivers through my whole body because I now recognize … When someone is talking about getting someone else drunk, so that they have sex with them, that is blurring the lines of consent, if not outright violating them.

I think this tendency to scrutinize the choices of the victim both before experiencing violence, and then also after, “Why didn’t I report to the police? Why didn’t I report to the university? Why didn’t I immediately go to the hospital and get a rape kit? Why did I …?” The second time I was assaulted like, “Why did I get up the next morning, and show up for work, and tried to pretend that everything was fine? Like if you were really so traumatized, you would have been in bed for the next two weeks.” Picking apart the choices and the actions of a victim instead of picking apart like what should be dissected which is, “How did we let this happen? What do we need to do to prevent it in the future?” Those are all …

Emily: You faced questions like that, and you mentioned like personal attacks on you?

Zoe: Yeah.

Emily: I’m so sorry.

Zoe: In the age of the internet, it’s like unavoidable, I suppose. I’m lucky that … I don’t know what it is. I’ve always intimidated people a little bit. I’m a loud mouth. Maybe that’s it, but I don’t think I have faced the same level of … I think there’s two things. One, I’ve never named my attackers, which means people just aren’t digging into my story. I refuse to give the level of detail that would be necessary for someone to try to discredit me if they wanted to.

When you share that level of detail, people just attack and really pick apart every detail of the story, and every choice that you made, every word that you used to describe it. To me, that’s a distraction from my point. The point is I know the impact of this, and that’s what motivates me to do this work, but I have experienced it. Sometimes, it’s like insidious. Right? Like every time I go out socially, people want to talk to me about rape, which often, it’s like someone in the bathroom just starts crying and telling me their story.

Sometimes, it’s the classic like "just to play devil’s advocate" guy who is everyone’s least favorite person at the party comes up to me, and he’s just like … Starts asking me these questions like I’ve never thought about the idea of due process like, “Oh, thanks random dude at a party like I spent my entire life thinking about rape, but you have just crystallized for me the thing that I’ve been missing.” Those are less difficult. The crazier ones were like anonymous online commenters who like threaten violence, who call me a liar, who say that I’m doing this to earn money, which is insane.

Emily: People dug into a Facebook conversation and emails between Emma and her alleged rapist. Did that hurt the progress that you’ve made?

Zoe: Momentarily, and the reason I didn’t want it to go there is because that sucks for … Like that’s painful to have her actions scrutinized and to have manipulated Facebook conversations validated. I don’t think it really changed that many people’s minds. I think it provided fuel to the fire for the people who already do not believe survivors and for the people who were not on the up page, that horrible, horrible page.

I think it provided an important opportunity for survivors and advocates to talk about how complex it is to move forward in life after you’ve experienced sexual assault. Like I have text messages from after the assault with one of the people who attacked me and … “Attacked” isn’t the right word, but who perpetrated that kind of violence against me, and I can see how that would be confusing for people who didn’t understand that, but it’s hard to move on. It’s hard to accept what happened to you. It’s hard to figure out what you do with that information.

If you already know that you don’t want to like report to the police and make a criminal case out of it, then like you have to figure out what you do in life, and it’s especially hard when this is a person who’s a part of your world here on campus or anywhere. I think a lot of people choose to just to try to act normal and hope that things become normal. A lot of us do reach out. A lot of us say things that might not fit in with this idea of like the perfect victim, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen, and that doesn’t mean that the impact has …

Emily: Over this spring, you were … Last spring, you were fighting for change, but then in the fall, Emma decided on her Carry That Weight art project. For people who don’t know about that, can you describe that?

Zoe:  I just think it’s so brilliant. I love talking about it. In the spring we were doing all kinds of direct actions, we filed a Title IV complaint against the school. Emma and I are both complainants and there are 28 of us in total.

Emily: The school is now under investigation for that?

Zoe: Yes, both Barnard and Columbia are under investigation for violating Title IV.

Emily: Which is mishandling of sexual assault cases?

Zoe: Yes. All of this was going on and we pretty quickly realized that meeting with administrators was not getting us anywhere, that they were not taking this issue seriously. We had to kind of reassess, what do they take seriously? The results to date that we have found successful are: public image, money and alumni donations and admissions and matriculation rates. Those are the things that they have proven to value, so we started figuring out ways to put pressure on them by targeting those areas and Emma started talking about her idea for this project.

She and I talked about what kind of piece this might be over the summer and what really struck out to me in those conversations was this symbol of the mattress and the sort of potent way that that particular image captures what so many of us have been trying to say for a long time now, that this is an issue we can no longer relegate to bedrooms. This is an issue we can no longer ignore or refuse to acknowledge, in our own lives as well as in our own communities, as well as at the levels of institutions.

We all have to acknowledge that this is happening if we're going to meaningfully address it. Kind of taking this raw, intimate, painful, private experience and bringing it out into the light in the form of a mattress, I just think it's beautiful and raw and visceral and kind of ugly in some ways, too. You're just dragging it around all day and it's dirty and you sleep on it. That's so real. That just clicks so intimately, I think, for some of these survivors.

Emily:  Her project was to bring a mattress, a dorm room mattress, she even got a mattress from the company that provides to Columbia, and she said she would carry it around campus until her alleged rapist was expelled.

Zoe: Expelled or otherwise chose to leave.

Emily: That started in September and is still going on?

Zoe: Absolutely.

Emily: She's still got the mattress.

Zoe: I just saw her yesterday. We carried it up from ...

Emily: Same mattress?

Zoe: The class. Same mattress.

Emily: Dinged up a little?

Zoe: Dinged up, through the snow, through the streets, unbelievable. Her arms are very toned. They really are. By making it visual and making it real for people in that way, Emma has done a lot for the movement in giving us kind of a concrete representation of what we've been trying to say, which is everybody has to take this seriously. Everybody has to do something to help us end this.

The mattress and the carrying of the mattress, both represent that weight, that burden of sexual assault and bringing it into the light, but also sort of puts the lens back onto the viewer to say, "What are you going to do about this? You are complicit in this just by being a part of this community." As are we all, so what are we going to do about it and are you going to help carry that weight?

It just caught on. Not only did it become a viral image in like a day, but students across the country started reaching out to Emma and reaching out to No Red Tape, which is our campus group that Emma and I co-founded along with some others to say, what can I do? How can I be a part of this? This speaks to me, this imagery is powerful. Hundreds of people in weeks asking, what can I do? People at small rural schools, people at huge public schools, just all across the board, high school students.

The group of us sort of got together to say we should be doing something more intentional with the momentum that we've built up, that Emma's pieces created and that we collaboratively can work to sustain and grow and channel towards concrete change, both on our campus as well as so many others. That's how it was born.

Emily: Then you had the big day where you dumped, it was dozens of mattresses in front of President Bollinger's house.

Zoe: That was an amazing day.

Emily: How many mattresses did you leave? There were 28?

Zoe: We left 28 mattresses there, representing the 28 complainants in the Title IV case, which President Bollinger has still refused to acknowledge even exists. Those mattresses have written on them statements of support from various student groups, as well as ten demands that we made for policy changes.

It was kind of a living petition and a way of us saying, "You can't hide from this issue in the same way that every single day it affects the survivors here on campus who are living with your mistakes and your administration's mistakes. You, also, are going to have to reckon with your role in this and we're going to literally bring it to your doorstep. You have to decide how to act. We need you to take leadership. We need you to take bold and decisive action to address this issue."

Emily: You were later fined for leaving those mattresses.

Zoe: Yeah, he took bold and decisive action to ...

Emily: Were you surprised by that?

Zoe: I was not surprised by that, unfortunately. People always ask me if I'm surprised by this and that and I'm like, "No." I wish that I was, but my expectations for many of the people involved in these issues at this university are so low at this point that very little surprises me.

I think it was bad PR move on their part, but I also think it's just unethical to say here's a group of survivors who are begging for my help and they're doing what they feel they have to do to get my attention when I've refused to acknowledge the validity of their concerns and have not taken meaningful action towards addressing them.

They're doing what they feel they had to do and in response I'm going to not only ignore the content of their concerns, but also slap them with a hefty fine. In particular because we don't have any money, so that would have had to come out of my pocket, really, except that UltraViolet, the organization, offered to pay for that so that it didn't have to come out of individual survivor's pockets, which was really a gift.

Emily: More recently, you and other activists have gone into admission sessions, admission info sessions on campus, and made speeches and held signs and chanted. What is your goal there?

Zoe: The university cares what it looks like publicly and it in particular cares what it looks like to prospective students. If we can take those opportunities to rattle the university and remind them we care about this, we are angry and we are not going to be cooperative and peaceful until you address these serious concerns. A second and, in my opinion, somewhat more important, piece of those actions in particular, is the reality that all of those students will be attending college in the fall.

This is not an issue that's unique to Columbia. This is an issue on every single college campus. To me, it's so important that college students and their families, future prospective college students and their families, are armed with the knowledge that they need to make real assessments about what kind of school and what kind of community they want themselves or their children to be a part of.

Part of that is making sure that we are providing prospective students with real, honest information about what students at our campus have experienced. We have people start applauding, we have people send us emails and ask, what can I do? What should I know? Here's a list of six schools I'm applying to. Which is the worst? Which is the best? I can't answer that question, but having students really being grateful for that information and the opportunity to engage with something that, at this point, many people are hearing about, many people are reading about.

Emily: Columbia has made some changes. They created a new 24-hour rape crisis center. They said they're doing consent training. They did release some numbers, which your group's demanded about how many people had been raped and sexually assaulted. What else are they doing that ...

Zoe: Is good.

Emily: Yeah, that you asked them to do and they have responded?

Zoe: We've had a number of victories and I want to preface this by saying it is entirely due to ongoing student pressure in very intense ways and I do not believe they would have taken any of these actions had students not been very angry and very public about that.

The expansion of the rape crisis center is definitely a great and positive outcome. They expanded the level of professional support available at the rape crisis center, which is great because it means they're not just relying on student volunteers. There's people who are trained specifically in gender-based violence and, I think, social workers, who are there now. Not 24/7, as they would suggest, but they say that you can reach them on the phone 24/7 probably.

Better than it was before, a while to go before we really have people on-site 24/7, which is ideally what we would like. They also added a second location on Columbia's campus. Previously it had only been on Barnard's campus and was difficult to access for people, because if you don't have a Barnard ID you can't get into the Barnard buildings. You'd have to tell some random security guard like, "I'm sorry, I was just raped. Can you please let me in?" Then that person would have to decide whether or not you're telling the truth. It was a mess.

Another victory for us was they agreed to provide free emergency contraceptives on campus, which is great. They provide both Plan B and ella, which are two forms of emergency contraception. It's like $50 at Duane Reade, so that could be a real significant barrier for a student who needed emergency access to that kind of health care. They provide it for actually all students now, for free, on campus when Health Services open. That's a great thing, but that's specifically on Columbia's side. Barnard does not do that.

They did not make this public, but they fired a number of administrators who were individually responsible for huge numbers of Title IV violations and causing a great deal of harm to individual students, as well as just overall screwing up the policy in its writing and its implementation, or who really were ineffective at working with students to address these issues.

Emily: How did you find out about that?

Zoe: Partially, there used to be people in that office who are no longer in that office. Actually, pretty much everyone who used to be in the gender-based misconduct office is no longer in that office. Pretty sure they didn't keep anyone.

Emily: They appointed a new vice president?

Zoe: They created a new role, specifically a special advisor on sexual assault and those roles are filled by the same person, Professor Suzanne Goldberg. They created six new staff positions in the sexual violence response department, which is separate from the gender-based misconduct office. That's the department that oversees the rape crisis center as well as prevention education programming.

They have implemented a new consent education and primary prevention education program, which we have very complicated feelings about. What is great about it is, it's required once a year for all students.

Emily: They didn't have any consent education before? Or not anything that was required and every year?

Zoe: Certainly not every year. As of last year it became required in freshman orientation. Before that, it had been optional in freshman orientation. I never had any. It went from being totally optional, whatever, no one knows, to last year required for first years, to this year required once a year for all students, including graduate students.

We think it should be happening much more frequently. A step in the right direction, certainly. What we're concerned about is the content and structure of the program. They way that it has been implemented to date was not done in a way that took into account the diversity of the student population here at Columbia.

Somebody moving here who grew up in a different country and is moving here as an 18-year-old and maybe doesn't have a solid grasp on English and is familiar with a whole different set of vocabulary around sexual assault or even just sex and relationships, needs a very different kind of consent education than a 45-year-old male PhD student who lives at home with his family. These are completely different ,but the programming is the same.

Beyond that, many of the options that students can choose from to complete this requirement are wholly inadequate. They include watching a video and writing a short reflection on it or making an art piece, like writing a poem. That doesn't cut it. Pretty much the only programming that has shown to be effective at changing values, norms and behaviors is four to six hours of in-person programming over the course of a few years or a year.

Emily: Some people have said they don't feel safe sharing an opposing or a different point of view on Columbia's rape culture or rape on campus or what's going on or your protests, and that there's not room for their voices, that they're kind of afraid of speaking their mind. How do you respond to that?

Zoe: I guess I would say if you're afraid of people's reaction, then maybe you should think about why people might react that way to what you have to say. I think that's a big part of why people rely on online commenting forums to discuss this, because they don't want to be help accountable for their views if their views are problematic or hurtful.

I don't feel bad for people who have problematic, sexist, violent, elitist views and feel they can't share those. I don't want to hear those views. I fully respect a person's right to share a view even if I feel that it's problematic. I reserve my right to call them out for being problematic and if that makes them feel sad or uncomfortable, then I think that reflects more on that person and why they hold that view and how confident they feel in that view, and its moral integrity.

Emily: Do you think that Columbia students consider themselves part of the neighborhood and has the neighborhood been supportive of your work?

Zoe: I do not think that Columbia students consider themselves a part of this community. I don't think we have a very healthy relationship with the Morningside Heights community or the Harlem community, with which we share space.

In terms of Columbia being responsible for gentrifying this neighborhood and forcing people out for the Manhattanville expansion that has violently forced people out of their homes, individual's behavior that I am quite confident I've witnessed it myself, is elitist or entitled. Whether that's a frat house playing their music far too loudly on a Tuesday when they have neighbors, or a drunk kid peeing on someone's front porch.

When we have large demonstrations, we often have community members show up and offer their support, speak, and that's wonderful. That's a really gratifying and inspiring thing to have happen, to have members who aren't even really a part of the campus community but are part of the local community engage with us in that way. It really means a lot.

I love the idea of engaging community members. It's difficult to figure out how to do that once you leave the campus context because then your resource really is the police force, and that's not an area that we're interesting in engaging with.

I think that if a survivor wants to report to police, they should, and I have helped survivors report to the police when they have asked for that, and I would never tell someone what they should or shouldn't do but, I think, overwhelmingly we hear that survivors want a campus process to remain available and that it's very important that that's the case. There are many reasons why people do not want to report to the police, myself included. I didn't and I wouldn't.

The idea about engaging with the neighborhood becomes complicated around that issue because it's unclear where we would work together. They don't have a stake in the campus process and we don't want to engage with the police.

Emily: You and Allie Rickard are forming a nonprofit called Carry That Weight?

Zoe: Yes.

Emily: What do you want to do with that?

Zoe:  I'm hopeful that we can take the lessons that we've learned here and connect with other students who are doing really powerful on-the-ground organizing on their campuses and create a more cohesive national movement to improve campus policies. We've developed and have been giving trainings to students. We have groups who are joining to be a part of our organization, which means many of them are keeping their names and campus structures, but it means that they're going to be, or most of them already are, working towards policy changes on their campuses and in some ways using the framework of Carry That Weight.

I'm hopeful that in the long term we can take this symbol that's become really kind of nationally recognized as a part of it, just these sort of visually striking things that help remind people what the issue is and how best to keep this action and this momentum going, and ultimately help each other work towards policy change on campuses.

In addition to that, we've kind of been branching out into some legislative advocacy work, so now we're focusing also on bringing student voices into the development of legislative proposals at city, state and federal levels. Often, a public official will get super excited about doing something really important, end campus sexual assault, but won't consult with any students, even though there are students in every district of every elected official that are working on this issue and really are the ones with the most knowledge and expertise about what needs to happen.

They'll usually call the local rape crisis center, who do great work but don't understand the campus processes, so really can't offer any expertise on how those should be reformed. Bring the student voices in to play defense on bad legislation but also work together to develop new legislation that we do stand behind and feel excited about.

Emily: Thank you for talking with me.

Zoe: Thank you.