Lule Rault '12
Neuroscience (PreMed) Major, Women and Gender Studies Minor
My time at W&L has been framed by one key issue: women's roles on campus and the challenges they face in a college setting. As a freshman, I enrolled in Introduction to Women and Gender Studies and learned about the high rates of sexual assault on college campuses, including small, private universities like Washington and Lee. I was quickly faced with the terrible reality that sexual assault is a national problem, especially on college campuses. Curious to learn more, I enrolled in the Sexual Assault Prevention Workshop, to continue to dissect this issue that women face. This class shaped the rest of my time at Washington and Lee.
The Sexual Assault Prevention Workshop was proposed by a student to Professor Melina Bell, who turned the student's idea into a reality. In this class, I read academic literature addressing the patterns and causes of sexual assault in the U.S. and on college campuses. We carefully studied W&L's policies and programs relating to sexual assault, including official and unofficial reporting of sexual assault incidents. This class wrote and submitted a final report about potential changes that W&L could consider implementing with the goal of preventing sexual assault. We also presented four primary proposals which we believed would be real and feasible changes that could reduce sexual assault in a community forum at the end of the term.
The Sexual Assault Prevention Workshop became the springboard through which my involvement at W&L was based. To ensure that the progress we made would continue for years to come, my classmates and I established a new organization called End It and made it our goal to help put an end to sexual assault at W&L. End It is the first co-ed group working towards this effort at W&L. I am proud to say that I have been working with End It as the Vice President of Education since its inception, and we have increased awareness about sexual assault on campus through flyers around campus, Stall Street Journals and Ring-Tum Phi Articles. As VP of Education, I have had the important task of presenting the goal of End It and educating students about the alarming statistics about sexual assault nationally and at Washington and Lee.
During my sophomore year, my energy and effort on campus was focused on both putting an end to sexual assault through the Sexual Assault Prevention Workshop and End It, and on encouraging women at W&L to run for student government positions through my role as Vice President of Panhellenic, the governing board of the sororities. My work was recognized by the University and I was presented with the Decade Award at the end of my sophomore year. The Decade Award is presented to the rising junior who demonstrates leadership within the W&L academic and extracurricular communities and has furthered discussions of women's issues.
Last year, I was appointed by the Executive Committee to serve as a student representative on the Student Faculty Hearing Board. This board is authorized to hear and adjudicate allegations of prohibited student discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct, hazing by individuals and retaliation. Working with the SFHB has been an additional venue for me to train and increase awareness about the issues of sexual misconduct on our campus.Through extensive training, the nine members of the SFHB met with W&L administrators; the director of Project Horizon--an organization that is dedicated to reducing dating, domestic and sexual violence in Rockbridge County--and other resources, such as a sexual assault process educator who works for the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management. Thanks to these conversations, we have identified additional subtle changes to the reporting and hearing structure that we believe will support the University's efforts to improve our response to sexual misconduct.
This year, Panhellenic recognized my efforts on campus and asked me to serve as co-chair of the Gender Relations Committee with Danny Murray, who was appointed by the Inter-Fraternity Council. My focus is to enhance positive gender relations at W&L by creating fun, dry events that promote positive friendship amongst men and women. Improving gender relations on campus will hopefully decrease the incidence of sexual assault on campus, as it will promote respect among peers and deepen our sense of community.
W&L has been special for me due to the spectacular Women and Gender Studies department here. I would not have had this comprehensive experience examining women's role on W&L's campus without the dedicated professors, such as Melina Bell; administrators, such as Jason Rodocker, Teri Cugliari, Clay Coleman, Tammy Futrell and Sidney Evans; and experienced visiting educators, such as Scott Lewis, Judy Castelle and Stacey Nadeau. My work with sexual assault, promoting women leaders and helping gender relations on campus at W&L has even shaped my future. For the next few years, I am hoping to be a campus speaker talking about the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, or to work with a non-profit women's group, specifically in an educational role. W&L has shaped my perspective and instilled a sense of justice that I will take with me after I graduate this May, no matter where I go.