By Emily Mokler Editor-in-Chief
In response to the Jan. 28 Bangor Daily News (BDN) article about the experiences of two UMF students after reporting that they had been sexually assaulted, a coalition called Look Us in the Eyes (LUITE) has become an independent movement advocating for “changes with the way the university responds to sexual assault, provide education and work with a wide group of students who feel passionate about sexual assault prevention and Title IX rights,” according to Claudia Intama, an administrator for the Facebook group.
In the time since the article’s publication, the group has grown to over 260 members, including UMS students, alumni, and faculty.
Amy Fortier-Brown, a senior political science major, created the group within hours of the release of the BDN article. “I created this group because the BDN article made me feel betrayed by the University. I am not the type to sit and writhe in anger; I instead prefer to use that energy to change the situation. Thus, I decided I wanted to have a protest on campus to bring attention to this issue,” Fortier-Brown said in an email interview.
LUITE is holding a peaceful protest in a common area on the UMF campus on February 15 at noon “to address the way that the University of Maine System handles sexual assault cases,” according to their Facebook page.
“I obviously would like to create positive change on UMF’s campus to address sexual assault issues with a holistic approach. This includes improvements at all levels- students, faculty, and administration,” Fortier-Brown said.
On February 6, one of the first steps of discussing sexual assault on campus since the BDN article was published was a panel hosted by the Campus Violence Prevention Coalition (CVPC) called “Campus Conversations Part One.” At this event, five panelists with various backgrounds came together to answer student questions. Intama, who is also the President of CVPC, worked as a moderator of the event.
While LUITE is an independent student group, “CVPC is a university sanctioned group of students, faculty and staff that have the same goals in mind,” according to Intama.
Intama acknowledges the role that the article has played in the increase of discussion about sexual assault on campus. “It really was the BDN article that sparked discussion and action here at UMF. I am thankful for all the survivors who have been brave to tell their stories, and am glad to see the UMF community rally together to think of ways to increase knowledge, education and training around sexual assault and harassment,” Intama said. “Although the article painted UMF in a not-so-favorable light, the changes that are being talked about now are helpful and positive.”
There is a bittersweet quality to the student response. “I love that people are involved and excited about this issue, but I am sad that we have to have this conversation. We have been failed,” said Fortier-Brown.
Intama said that sexual assault “is a national issue, but our community is driven to make sure our university is safe and provides a supporting environment for all who attend here.”
Fortier-Brown said that she “absolutely believe[s] that there are people here who are pioneers for change and want to ensure that UMF is safe and is living up to our high (and justified) standards. I have no doubt that admin[istration] is working with us to change.”
Fortier-Brown also said that “if [administration] ever become[s] complacent, we are also here to push them to keep going and support them when needed. Overall, it is striking how well we- LUITE, Staff, and Admin- are working together.”
Fortier-Brown said, “This is our #MeToo movement. Maine is late to everything.”
A screening and subsequent discussion of the documentary “The Hunting Ground” was initially scheduled for January 30, but was changed to February 13.
Students interested in being involved with CVPC may contact Claudia Intama or Jordan Shaw. Students interested in joining LUITE may contact Amy Fortier-Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org