“It’s On Us” protestors misguided

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By Boswell Hutson

I have a confession to make: I didn’t see Joe Biden’s support of the “It’s On Us” campaign at CRCE last week. I know it makes me a bad American or whatever, but I had to listen to a presentation on the ancient city of Priene in Turkey, and as much as it pained me, I had to go to class for the sake of my final grade. Take that, senioritis!

On my way back from David Kinley Hall, I stumbled across a group of students along the crowded sidewalk with chants and signs. “Oh no. What could crazy right wing people possibly have to say this time,” I thought as I approached them, only to be completely surprised.

Their signs included pictures of the Vice President at various events with his hands on women’s shoulders and marked criticism for the entire “It’s On Us” campaign, calling it a “shell organization” and criticizing its existence.

The “It’s On Us” campaign seeks to have people sign a pledge to recognize and intervene whenever instances of sexual assault happen. The fact that anyone would protest this event is something that is infinitely nonsensical to me.

Fear not, though, the protest platoon was in full force on Thursday.

To decry Joe Biden for potentially making women feel uncomfortable is one thing, yes. Perhaps he has made women feel uncomfortable — that is regrettable and should never happen to anyone, regardless of gender. But to use this to attack the professional acumen of a man who has put sexual assault on the forefront of his agenda for his entire career (and damn, it’s been a long career) seems hasty.

Biden even wrote the ground-breaking Violence Against Women Act in 1994, which allocated $1.6 billion toward the investigation of violent crimes against women.

What’s more, these protests happened in conjunction with Biden’s speech, which was an explicit confrontation of popular notions surrounding sexual assault — especially on campuses. Maybe I’m far too cynical, but given our campus’ problems with sexual assault, I would think that an event that brings together a plethora of students to rally against the crime would be praised.

To say that these protesters oppose the cause would be wrong; I’m sure they, too, want to end sexual assault. I believe they simply had a problem with Joe Biden being selected as speaker and the notion that the pledge provided by “It’s On Us” was more rhetoric than anything else. While this could very well be true, when it comes down to it, his mere presence on our campus united hundreds of people in support of a fantastic cause. Maybe it’s not as in-depth as the protesters would like, but you cannot, in good faith, protest a campaign that raises massive amounts of awareness, at the very least.

Freedom of protest is an immensely important aspect of American society, but these specific protests seem extremely trivial — I would think this group would want to spread as much information in support of ending sexual assault as was humanly possible, something that “It’s On Us” aims to do.

I’m sure this is not the case, but to many students, it seemed like the protesters found out Joe Biden was coming to campus and decided to protest purely for the sake of attention. As someone who takes political action seriously, this is extremely troubling.

Unsolicited touching is bad — it should never happen. But it doesn’t make a villain out of someone who is actively working to curb sexual assault on a global scale, and has been for some time. Perhaps it delegitimizes his work, but it doesn’t make his work any less admirable. I, for one, think the widespread campus support of “It’s On Us” was legitimate. It was our community standing together saying we don’t support sexual assault.

Yes, Biden’s speech may have only raised awareness for sexual assault survivors; yes, it could have gone further. What it did do, however, was inspire hundreds of students who would otherwise not have paid attention to such an important cause.

The opposition of sexual assault prevention, in any way, shape or form, looks foolish. It seems less and less like the protesters had a reason to protest, and more and more like they were simply trying to shock a large-scale event for sheer attention. I both know and agree with many protesters who were outside of CRCE on Thursday — and I’m sure their claims were legitimate — but berating a person and an organization that seek to destroy sexual assault is certainly not the way to make your voice heard by any rational person.

Boswell is a senior in LAS.

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