On Monday night, Dr. Jackson Katz gave a lecture about the need for men to take an active role in preventing gender violence. The speech was sponsored by the Interfraternity Council and the Women’s Resource Center and is the latest in a series of efforts to improve campus climate at the University. The majority of the Greek community, both fraternities and sororities, were present at the event. In the wake of Katz’s speech, much of campus is involved in discussing ways to reduce sexual assault and other abuse and violence.

Bringing speakers such as Katz to campus is an important first step. Many faculty members are also striving to continue the conversation begun by Katz’s lecture. Groups of professors have organized reading groups to discuss books dealing with gender violence issues (including Katz’s book), some of which are specifically targeted at female students and some of which are targeted at males. Other professors and department secretaries have brought up these issues in class (even in classes about completely irrelevant subject matter) and forwarded information about these reading groups to get the word out to students. On their own, students who attended the lecture have discussed their reactions to it, and even if reactions have not always been positive, some conversation and awareness about gender violence is better than none.

The faculty, administration and a selection of students clearly care very deeply about these issues. They are acknowledging the need to emphasize these issues and doing everything they can conceivably do to address them, and they should be commended for their efforts to create a safer environment on campus. But how effective their efforts will be remains to be seen.

We suspect that the people who most need to think more about these gender violence issues will be among the people least likely to attend a reading group discussion or take a lecture such as Katz’s seriously. Indeed, many students seemed to blow off Katz’s lecture. Some were seen doing homework during the speech, while others apparently got nothing out of it except irritation that it had run long. Katz was correct in his observation that many people distance themselves from these issues, thinking that they only apply to “monsters” rather than themselves, but this distancing also makes people less responsive to his message.

This is why it is so important that those who did listen and do care take action. These people must refuse to let themselves be “bystanders” and must step up to stop abuse as it happens. They must also realize that “gender violence” is not merely rape; unwanted touching and groping and verbal harassment are also harmful. Perhaps most difficult, they must be willing to stand up for what’s right, even if it means going against their friends.

The administration and faculty have done everything they can do; whether or not their efforts succeed is up to the student body.

(Visited 45 times, 1 visits today)