By Stacey Kaslon
Recently, many women and men who have been sexually harassed or assaulted chose to come forward because of the #metoo campaign. The movement began with a tweet by Alyssa Milano that read:
Since then, the tweet has received over 69,000 responses. Not every person who responded shares their experience. Many, including fathers and other men, are simply spreading awareness and showing their support for others who have experienced this social injustice.
BSU professor, Dr. Randy Ludeman, director of Housing & Residential Life, is no exception to bringing light to this social injustice. This spring he will be teaching the Gender Studies course Sexual Violence. Last taught three years ago, the seminar-styled course will encourage students to openly discuss typically “taboo” areas of sexual violence including, but not limited to, rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, sex trafficking, social justice and gender equity over equality.
“You create aware people with opportunities like this,” Ludeman said. “I’m convinced that this rape culture will change only when the peer culture changes. We can talk about it as adults and professionals. We’ve been doing that forever. But when the peers say, ‘enough’, that’s when it will really change.”
In a 2015 report by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in sixteen men are sexually assaulted while in college—90% of which are not reported. To put that into perspective using the number of men and women at BSU, 551 women and 153 men would be sexually assaulted with only 70 incidents out of 704 being reported.
Due to variations from campus to campus, this is not necessarily the case at BSU, for instance over 2,000 students are online. Taking that into account, the total number of sexual assault cases would be 43 with 5 being reported. In 2016, only five sexual assaults were reported at BSU. Since the start of school this fall to the start of October, two assaults have already been reported.
“It’s an interesting time with this current political leadership and how there’s a turn in the corner now with title IX and with this new department of ed person, Betsy Devos, is changing the landscape by saying that we are too focused on victims and need to focus on the rights of the perps,” Ludeman said. “I want to really challenge people to look at this. It’s an opportunity now to really explore what the landscape looks now and where we are headed.”
Ludeman is closely tied to students in his work at BSU. He teaches various Genders Studies courses and was the associate director of Housing and Residential Life and Conduct officer at BSU for years which allowed him to meet one-on-one with Housing staff and students from across campus. Last spring, he took on a new role as the director of Housing and Residential Life.
“I’m going to do everything that I can with this job to try to help young people change these types of issues,” Ludeman said. “I’m told that for a male to talk about these issues is a little different than a woman talking about it. Well, here I go, because it matters to me.”
Students of all majors are encouraged to be a part of the course. And, though the course may share feminist themes, Ludeman explains that the topics are completely open for discussion throughout the course and that people’s opinions will be respected.
“There’s some majors that would really benefit from the current research and trends in this topic, but it’s also a contemporary issue that’s pretty significant right now,” Ludeman said. “If we as a group can talk openly about this stuff, that’s when the empowerment comes for the culture change […] there’s no right or wrong as long as we are talking about it.”
Touching on many sensitive subjects throughout the semester, Ludeman promises that he will give trigger warnings throughout the course for those who may need them. He also assures that needing to leave because of something triggering will not harm a student’s grade in the course, but he will check in and make sure that the student is doing okay.
“It’s a sensitive topic,” Ludeman said. “I won’t tolerate harassment. I spend a lot of time setting the stage for productive and healthy conversation about the topic and giving people the permission to leave when they need to.”
Ludeman admits that the course will not solve sexual violence on campus or in society, but that by bringing it to students’ attention they might talk about it and from there, challenge the role that it plays in college life.
“If talking about it is more accepted, then reporting is more accepted,” Ludeman said. “When the peer group says ‘not in my house’, you will see change.”