Vigil held Thursday evening at Haskell Indian University
President Chenault Addresses Student Concerns Over Campus Safety
LAWRENCE, KANSAS — In the wake of Saturday morning’s report of sexual assault on the campus of Haskell Indian Nations University, the Hakell community gathered in a forum setting at the Haskell Auditorium Thursday night to address the issue. The event began with a prayer song, led by Student Housing Supervisor Tom Spottedhorse.
Chief Information Officer Josh Arce emceed the event, answering questions with President Chenault from students aloud and by anonymous questions on paper. Arce stated, “The purpose of this forum is to be open and honest, share information as we know it. This is not a television show where it all ends in one hour, the healing process will take a long time.”
Arce opened up saying the steps that were taken Saturday were consistent and the Haskell staff acted appropriately. Arce went on to say, “We think our plan was effective on the way things were handled.” President Chenault followed up by noting that safety alerts were posted at OK Hall, the site of the incident.
Many students raised questions of concern of how this could be prevented in the future. President Chenault stressed the importance of having Haskell men protect their female Haskell counterpart. President Chenault said, “No other gender/ethnic group is under more danger of sexual assulat than Native American Women. Women are too be cherished. I’m calling all the men on campus to step-up and protect these women. It would be helpful to have men and groups walk women at night from the libary and dark spots around campus, back to where they need to go.” Student Senate President Beverly Foley expressed the need, “Protect each other.”
A major factor in protecting Haskell students is funding. President Chenault stated that with funding, the campus will add more LED lightning and emergency lights. Also, starting in the fall of 2015-16, freshman will remain in Blalock Hall and Pocahontas Hall for the entire school year. Currently, second-semester freshman can move to any of the other buildings by application.
Another big item of the evening was the importance reporting an incident. President Chenault made it very clear, “If you don’t report, we cannot do anything. 1/4 Native American women are sexual assaulted in their lifetime and most do not report it. ” Arce addressed that their is a two-year statue of limitations, but an individual will have more evidence and a stronger case if they report right after it happens. Arce also stated, that an individual has the right to defend themselves if they are harmed.
Student Bear Tompkins spoke and said, “Policies are not completely why this happened (Saturday’s sexual assault report). This is a culture problem. As Native Americans, we rely too much on drinking and smoking. We will lose our culture if we continue to rely on chemical dependency.”
To conclude the event. students and staff gathered outside for a vigil to morn the recent events. The group was next to the courtyard gazebo with candles lit.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in The Indian Leader, the oldest American Indian student newspaper in the nation. Used with permission. All rights reserved.