By Mariah McCloskey
On January 22, 2018, Seton Hall University’s Student Government Association (SGA) passed a resolution supporting victims of sexual harassment and assault on campus by “condemn[ing] the heinous actions of sexual predator.”
The original document, titled “A Resolution to Stand in Solidarity with those who fall victim to sexual harassment and assault” was drafted by College of Education Senator, Emma Murphy, and College of Arts and Sciences Senator, William Kuncken. With the intent “to support all those victimized, objectified, or have in any other way subjected to sexual harassment and assault through intimidation, coercion, or violence,” the resolution was passed almost unanimously by the SGA.
During the vote, prior to the passing of the resolution itself, there was much more debate over the resolution than expected. While most of the SGA approved of “the commitment to respect the lives and dignity of every person who is a part of the Seton Hall community,” a few senators voiced their objections. Although, when it came time to vote only one senator-at-large rose their hand against the resolution.
According to Senator Murphy, when the resolution was first proposed, “there were a few who needed some clarification” on the resolution, its intent, and the actions accompanying it. “Fortunately, after about a half hour of questions, the Student Government Association passed the resolution by a large majority.”
In a statement from both Senators , they originally decided to draft the resolution after “the horrific amount of accusations against people in popular culture, as well as the #MeToo movement, and several human rights marches and rallies that occurred recently.” Senator Murphy also felt she had particular passion that took rise after attending “Protecting God’s Children,” which is a child abuse prevention training session sponsored by Seton Hall’s College of Education.
When asked why Senators Murphy and Kuncken, who identify as female and male respectively, chose to draft this resolution, as opposed to two female or two male senators, Murphy stated that “it was necessary to have a male and a female senator writing this resolution because both men and women are affected by this issue and should be equally concerning.”
The eight co-sponsors of the document were also “unintentionally” four men and four women. Among these were both Seton Hall’s School of Diplomacy Senators, Efrain Vallejo and Jacob Abel.
“As leaders on our campus I believe it is [the SGA’s] duty to address this issue in as many ways as we can,” Senator Abel told the Diplomatic Envoy. In addition to supporting victims in the community, “Senators Murphy and Kuncken are working to create concrete steps to raise more awareness of sexual assault and harassment around campus.”
The resolution explicitly states that Seton Hall’s SGA “denounces any kind of language or action that objectifies, coerces, or in other ways mistreats an individual,” and that the SGA will “hold a moment of silence for those impacted by sexual harassment or assault at the start of the following meeting.”
“We specifically chose to have a moment of silence at the next meeting as a chance to reflect on all those impacted by sexual harassment and assault,” Senator Murphy told the Diplomatic Envoy, it will “serve as a way to stand in solidarity to survivors of sexual assault and harassment.”
Senator Murphy has reached out to Know More, a student lead club on campus, and is planning to have them utilize the “public forum” part of the SGA’s agenda to continue having an open dialogue on how to combat sexual harassment and assault in the Seton Hall community. “This is just the beginning of a more powerful movement across campus,” Murphy stated.
“Senators Murphy and Kuncken were both clearly passionate about the issue,” Senator Abel said in an interview. He thinks “it will make a difference to [survivors] knowing that the Student Government takes [sexual assault and harassment] very seriously and is working to take further action beyond what is laid out in the bill.”
SGA held a moment of silence, per the resolution, at the start of their meeting the following Monday. Currently both Senators Murphy and Kuncken are continuing to work with other organizations and support clubs on campus in their fight against sexual harassment and assault. Senator Kuncken believes that the resolution “will be the first measure of a much larger campaign to raise awareness on sexual harassment and assault, as well as display [Seton Hall’s] open, and public support.”