‘Not On My Campus’ working to create safer college campuses
Three years ago, in August 2012, a large group of timid, anxious first-years who just returned from Mustang Corral piled into an auditorium on SMU’s campus. These first-years were attending a presentation about the dangers of sexual assault on college campuses.
For a topic that is so terrifyingly prevalent in our society, where every 21 hours there is a rape on an American college campus, the presentation was less than memorable. Ask any senior on SMU’s campus today and they have probably forgotten that they even attended this lecture.
One of the students in the crowd was Elliott Bouillion, who is now a senior at SMU.
“When we had the first sexual assault awareness talk, it wasn’t that affective and I didn’t get a lot out of it,” Bouillion said.
Why did this discussion fail to impact SMU students in a greater way? SMU did the right thing by putting together such an important presentation, yet the students seemed unfazed and uninterested.
The key component missing in this lecture was the involvement of the students.
“The administration should be responsible for having those events…but students actively leading the discussion will make for a much safer campus,” Bouillion said. “When you get students to talk about it, further than just the presentation where people talk at you, it’s much more affective.”
Fast forward to the fall semester of 2015, and Bouillion is now the president of the newly certified SMU organization Not On My Campus, where he works every day to promote the discussion of sexual assault amongst students all over the country.
“NoMC is about ownership, authority and action,” Buillion said. “The mission is to have students actively talk about sexual assault prevention.”
NoMC has many plans for its first year as an organization, such as a sexual assault awareness week in the spring and social media campaigns. But to initially get the ball rolling, Bouillion and other members plan to reach out to all areas of campus, such as Greek life and the residential commons, to educate students on what NoMC is about.
NoMC believes that if students recognize and discuss the problem, they can become upstanders rather than bystanders. Hopefully, more people will feel comfortable reporting and stopping sexual assault.
“The most important thing we can do is start conversations…whether that conversation is about healthy relationships, what consent means, or where to go when something happens, we need to get people talking,” Jamie Hinz, a member of NoMC, said.
After being an RA in Ware Commons, Hinz joined NoMC because she found that sexual assault is an extremely taboo topic at SMU.
“The weight of responsibility to create a safe environment felt so much different than it had before and hearing of assaults on campus broke my heart enough times that I realized I had to take a more active role,” Hinz said.
Hinz was not the only person to become involved with NoMC because of the first hand exposure to tragedy that sexual assault can bring.
Ramón Trespalacios founded NoMC in 2013, when he was the SMU Student Body President. He graduated in the spring of 2015, but is still a supporter of NoMC.
“When I was first elected Student Body President, there had been a series of sexual assaults reported on campus, some of which had closely affected close friends of mine. In my first term, several students from all walks of life at SMU approached me to ask me what the school was doing to prevent them,” Trespalacios said.
That’s when Trespalacios realized there was something missing on college campuses. There was an extreme lack of accountability from the students.
“As students, we are the ones who host and attend parties, the ones who consume alcohol, the ones who let our friends go home with others after a night out, and the ones who live in the residence halls. But, we were not the ones taking any action to prevent sexual assaults and to create a supportive environment,” Trespalacios said.
Trespalacios wanted to start a movement that created ownership of the issue among his fellow students. He also wanted to create a safe space for victims of sexual assault.
“The student body is responsible for creating an environment where survivors feel welcomed, loved and appreciated,” Trespalacios said.
For the first two years, NoMC was led by volunteers and focused on spreading the word. Trespalacios and other students, such as Bouillion, Liz Dubret, Fanzine Giap, and Chris Palmer, worked hard to promote NoMC. They advocated the movement on social media in order to gain student attention.
A social media campaign that stood out was one that displayed students standing in various places on campus with the words “Not On My Campus” written on their hand. They wanted to promote the idea that SMU students would not tolerate sexual assault on their campus. Other students at colleges nationwide, such as UT Austin and Penn State, became aware of this campaign and decided to join the fight.
One of Bouillion’s best friends goes to UT, so Bouillion recruited him to help, since “UT is a giant public university” and was able to get “a lot more exposure than SMU,” Bouillion said.
SMU is the first university to approve NoMC as an organization, so now Bouillion and the members of NoMC are working to create “startup kits” for other universities that hope to establish NoMC at their school as well. These kits are filled with information on how to gain momentum and support for NoMC.
“I am extremely proud of SMU for paving the way of how student bodies across the nation can raise awareness, take action, and create a sense of ownership around the issue,” Trespalacios said.
Still think talking about sexual assault is awkward? Hinz offers a suggestion on how to approach the topic.
“Next time you’re with your friends or at lunch, ask them what they think and know about Not On My Campus. If that can spark the conversation about resources, healthy relationships and how to stay safe, then we have already served some purpose,” Hinz said.