In its second event of the semester, Penn Women SPEAK gathered on Nov. 30 to discuss how to respond to the controversial protesters on Locust Walk that may make students feel uncomfortable or offended.
This community dialogue comes at the end of a semester with several controversial protests on Locust Walk, including an anti-abortion protest that included graphic photos and a variety of religious protests by anti-LGBT preachers.
The first dialogue of the semester titled, “Reactions to Sexual Harassment: #MeToo vs. The Task Force," addressed sexual harassment on campus and nationally. It also responded to recommendations presented by the Task Force for a Safe and Responsible Campus Community, which formed in response to protests of the rape culture at Penn.
The conversation last Thursday began with a discussion of free speech, followed by an evaluation of the various protests over the past few semesters. The dialogue then led into the variety of ways that students can respond to the protestors, including counter protests and chalking, and whether or not the University should do anything to prevent some of the more graphic protests.
Another goal of the conversation was to discuss the best way to respond to the protestors.
“I think there should be a bigger network about it,” said Penn Women SPEAK President and College junior Andreina Lamas. “It would be so useful if we had an optional app that could alert students about that kind of thing, especially the more triggering ones there are.”
Lamas said that Penn needs to quickly respond to the protests in order to protect students who may be affected.
“There needs to be a much more immediate reaction for the students who are being affected, or even a proactive stance,” Lamas said, “ before it gets to a point where there are students who have been negatively impacted.”
Penn Women SPEAK aimed to make the event — which was held in the living room of the Penn Women’s Center — as comfortable as possible for attendees. Penn Women SPEAK Director of Dialogue and College senior Emily Hason moderated the discussion, assuring attendees that the area was a safe space, as the topic can be sensitive for some.
College junior Francesca Polizotto, the director of internal communications of Penn Women SPEAK, said members felt this topic was appropriate due to the frequency of protests on Locust Walk this semester. The club holds private meetings every month, but decided to open up this topic to all students.
“We felt that it would be an appropriate place to discuss these protests here at our discussion,” she said. “We wanted to open it up to the greater community, not just the board, and see what other people were thinking.”
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