Indiana Daily Student

'We need to change the culture': Music community plans Saturday protest to condemn sexual violence

Protest flyers are seen taped on an Indiana Avenue utility pole March 31, 2022. Organizers hung multiple flyers around campus to spread word of Saturday’s event at the East Studio Building. Some of those flyers have been torn down and defaced with offensive writing.
Protest flyers are seen taped on an Indiana Avenue utility pole March 31, 2022. Organizers hung multiple flyers around campus to spread word of Saturday’s event at the East Studio Building. Some of those flyers have been torn down and defaced with offensive writing.

Editor's Note: This story includes mention of sexual assault.

Since January, Jacobs School of Music students have been pushing for more in-depth conversations and tangible solutions after an Indiana Daily Student investigation detailed a sexual misconduct case. 

Students have attended town halls, conversed with faculty and staff and posted on social media to express their fears and concerns. In internal conversations, the university often stifled conversations, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and barred students from discussing the specifics of the case. 

Now, those dismayed students are asking for more. 

At 5 p.m. Saturday, students and the music community are gathering at the East Studio Building to protest and demand answers from their institution. Within their list of demands, they are asking for the university to condemn sexual violence, better protect survivors and forge a safer community. 

The IDS investigation, which prompted the protest, describes how music student Chris Parker was should have been expelled or charged by police, or both, when he breached his suspension stemming from a sexual assault. The university did not follow these terms of his suspension, which are detailed in a document obtained by the IDS. He was allowed back as a student twice after that. Organizer and alumna Abby Malala said the university needs to follow through on the promises they make in their policies.

"It's very important to us that if a survivor is told that certain action will be taken that that promise to them follows through," she said.

Parker is a starting point for much larger conversations about sexual assault and how the university handles Title IX investigations and sanctions, she said. After the stunting of previous conversations, Malala hopes the university recognizes how infuriated students are about what she calls a "miserable miscarriage of justice."

She and other students want to have conversations with the university about how current systems addressing sexual assault can be improved. Though IU continues to reassert the system works, Malala, who used to be in the jazz studies program, said recent IDS reporting shows it actually doesn't.

Jacobs sophomore Cristina Sarrico, who is an organizer speaking at the protest, said the Parker case is indicative of a larger issue. The focus of the protest is to make positive change to demand finding solutions that could help other students and show support to survivors of sexual violence, she said.

She said she too is a survivor and is currently working through a Title IX investigation. From her experience in this process, she said she notices similar issues when interacting with faculty and university officials.

While conversations on the topic have been difficult and taxing, she said they are necessary for growth and community rebuilding.

"For a lot of people, it's opened their eyes to that conversation and made it more of something that is able to be talked about," she said. 

For the Saturday protest, organizers demand the following:

IU needs to do a better job supporting survivors, Sarrico said, and this includes IU supplying additional funding to the Sexual Assault Crisis Service and Counseling and Psychological Services, as well as hiring more Title IX investigators. She also said the university or Jacobs could release a general statement addressing what their values are and condemning sexual assault, instead of the radio silence they have received so far. 

The readmissions process, specifically in Jacobs, also needs to be revisited, Sarrico said, because the school is community and collaboration based since musicians have to play together. Students having trust and security in that community needs to be a priority, she said, and students with a background of disciplinary conduct could violate that. Therefore, she said different standards for admitting students should be adopted. 

Faculty needs in-person, rather than virtual, training for how to deal with sexual assault, Sarrico said. In her experience, she said she noticed that her professors misunderstood her situation and didn't always relay the support and resources they should have. However, Sarrico said she has also had supportive experiences with faculty and other officials.

She also asks for greater transparency about changes happening at the university as a result of these discussions.

"I also want to focus on how everyone can help do little things to start to slowly change the culture to where that's unacceptable," she said.

After the initial investigation came out, third-year Jacobs student Abhik Mazumder said the organizers wanted to take advantage of the momentum of student unity and harness it in a positive way. For him and others, the protest is a way to do that. 

Multiple speakers will be present, including those in the local music community. Involving the larger community in this event pushes this is an issue that transcends the Jacobs community, Mazumder said. This event will allow a platform for students and community members to publicly declare their demands, speak freely and bring more attention to the issue. 

Mazumder and others said they want as many students to attend as possible. Even though flyers of the event say "Jacobs students against sexual violence," he said all are welcome because the issue of sexual assault stretches across the campus and community. 

A group of students came together in the last few weeks to plan the protest, IU senior and Jacobs student Delia Li said. She is also a member of the Jacobs Health and Wellness Committee, which has put on two town halls regarding the Parker situation. 

"The news about Jacobs has to come out because this could be an example to other schools and other parts of IU, so that policy change can happen," Li said. "This is a very necessary step for the students to be heard."

Li said many students like her were outraged when they heard of the reporting surrounding Parker and the music school. With this protest, she said she hopes it continues to bring this issue of sexual assault into the light, bring students together and show the university they are serious about enacting change. 

"Sexual assault is just really unforgivable," she said. "We need to change the culture."

Editor's note: Abby Malala previously worked for the Indiana Daily Student.

A list of resources is available here if you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment or abuse.

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