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Students, faculty discuss how Kavanaugh allegations affect IU


A button which reads “I Believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford” is pinned to the backpack of Brenda R. Weber, department chair and professor of gender studies at IU, Oct. 2 during the town hall in the Paul H. O'Neill Graduate Center. Matt Begala Buy Photos

After Christine Blasey Ford made accusations of sexual assault against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, some people have voiced concerns that these allegations may be false.

But it can be a slippery slope toward never believing any crime occurs once people start to discredit women who come forward with stories of sexual assault, said Brenda Weber, chair of the IU gender studies department.

Weber led a town hall-style discussion Tuesday in the Paul H. O’Neill Graduate Center about Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, the sexual assault allegations against him, media coverage of the issue and the Senate hearings with the nominee and Christine Blasey Ford. 

Brenda R. Weber, department chair and professor of gender studies at IU, discusses the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and sexual assault investigation during the School of Public and Environmental town hall Oct. 2 in the Paul H. O'Neill Graduate Center. Matt Begala Buy Photos

“I will admit I have been a little obsessive in my intake of all this,” Weber said.

The meeting is part of a series organized by the School of Public and Environmental Affairs where students and faculty discuss current events and how they relate to campus. SPEA Town Hall Tuesdays feature professors whose fields pertain to that week’s topic.

“We don’t really have an agenda here,” said Emily Cox, senior associate director of marketing communications. "We just want a discussion."

One student brought up a National Review article she said compared the Kavanaugh hearings to those in “To Kill A Mockingbird,” where lawyer Atticus Finch receives criticism from the town for defending a black man who was falsely accused of raping a young woman. 

The article said the book shows people must be cautious in believing women who claim to have been sexually assaulted and always give due process to the accused. 

Weber said it’s important to remember the book is fiction, and it should not be used as a basis for how to treat sexual assault accusations in real life. 

“That is a sociological story that isn’t as sexy to tell,” Weber said. 

Another person asked Weber what IU, in its efforts to establish a culture of care, can take away from these hearings. 

Students need to stop using a friendship or a bond with a fraternity as a reason to not report or stand up to sexual assault, Weber said.

Lyndsey Savard, assistant director of undergraduate student engagment in the School of Public and Environental Affairs, talks Oct 2. in the Paul H. O'Neill Graduate Center about the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and sexual assault investiagtion. Matt Begala Buy Photos

“There is a large problem where people feel a loyalty to a different ethos,” Weber said. “If you see behavior that you believe is unacceptable, it is your responsibility to stop it.”

Kavanaugh and Ford’s demeanors during their testimonies and how they have been scrutinized were discussed as well. Weber said that while Kavanaugh was testifying, he displayed male rage by yelling at and interrupting senators. 

The town hall concluded with a discussion on how to help combat the culture of sexual assault. Cox said coming together and using certain platforms such as a town hall discussion to voice concerns and questions is a great start.

“Use your voice to help and protect yourself, but also for others,” Cox said.

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