The Network: Raising Awareness and Shining a Light on Colgate’s Culture

Rebecca Kopelman, Staff Writer

According to the Bureau of Justice statistics, an estimated 80% of sexual assaults on college students go unreported. A college campus, for many students, is an unsafe place. The Network, however, is looking to change that through open dialogues, survivor-centric meetings and events that serve both Colgate’s campus and the Madison County community at large. The organization is student-run, and has grown exponentially since its inception in 2014.

As a small liberal-arts institution, Colgate arguably has a great deal of opportunity to efficiently and empathetically support survivors. Student-run organizations like The Network end up filling a void, and take over in raising awareness amongst the student body. 

“The Network is Colgate’s club dedicating to spreading more awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence. We are partnered with the COVE and host fundraisers where the proceeds go to the Help Restore Hope center (a shelter for survivors of domestic violence),” co-leader of The Network Julia Sicklick explained when describing the organization.

Sicklick expanded on the work The Network does on campus.

“This past semester we taught a class through the COVE about healthy and unhealthy relationships which was very successful. Tomorrow [Tuesday, April 12th] is our Take Back the Night march which will take place at 5:30 at the COOP. It is part of a national movement and a tradition we do every year.”

Weekly meetings and campus events are intended to show students where to turn for help, and how to get further involved.  Sicklick speaks further on her thoughts on sexual assault in Colgate’s climate.

“I do think that Colgate cares, but the way the administration handles [sexual violence] has a lot of bells and whistles attached to it, and the actual mechanism for reporting and stuff like that isn’t the best,” Sicklick said.

Sicklick continued to speak about the way information is spread at Colgate, especially through social media, and the way in which the administration dismisses information just because of the platforms they are being spread through. 

“[Colgate] could show a little more empathy and compassion. A lot of the things that I’ve seen in the past year have been stuff that’s on YikYak and other social media platforms, that kind of spread to the students faster than emails. And then the administration says ‘we’re gonna get to the bottom of this, but don’t believe what you see on social media platforms.’ In that way it’s a little disheartening, because we should believe survivors.”

Awareness about sexual and domestic violence is lacking, and stigmatizing the topics is exactly what allows a culture that accepts these things to flourish. Silence breeds tacit approval.

“I think awareness to me is important because it starts the conversation and I think that sometimes these topics can be a bit taboo, or not things that people approach in daily life or really think about,” Amelia Showers, a senior and co-leader, added. “Events and getting our name, The Network, out there, and the fact that we have Haven on campus as a resource out there is the most important thing so that people can feel supported.”

Organizations like The Network help contribute to a movement of student-led change in making sexual violence support more accessible and public.

“I think the administration could make the average student more aware of how to access all of the help centers on campus because they are pretty extensive,” Belle Drummond, first-year and Haven ambassador, said.

According to RAINN, a database of domestic and sexual violence, 26.4% of females and 6.8% of males experience sexual violence as undergraduates: sexual and domestic violence are seen as almost a given on college campuses, and yet the average student lacks the resources and knowledge to take care of themselves.

“Obviously we’re at college, and we’re on a campus, and it’s super prevalent at most colleges across America, and especially at Colgate,” Sicklick said. “I know a lot of people, the way that certain events have been handled by the administration, people just don’t really know about the issue. I mean, we’re not solving the problem, but trying to bring awareness and make people understand.”

If you are in need of help or counseling regarding sexual or domestic violence, please contact Haven at 315-228-7385. 

You can contact The Network at [email protected]