Keilah Davis | Staff Writer


On Jan. 26 at 4 p.m. in Talley Piedmont Ballroom, Student Government hosted over 120 students, staff, and community members at its Sexual Assault Prevention Town Hall.

Soraya Russell, a junior studying finance and international studies and the director of University Affairs within Student Government, was a primary organizer for the event. “At the beginning of the year, we knew we wanted to have have a town hall,” Russell said. “At first we were only going to have it under the Women’s Center. Then we reached out to other centers. Sorority and Fraternity Life helped out a lot. They helped to reach a lot of their members.”

The town hall began with short presentations from Dr. Linda McCabe Smith, vice provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity; Robinette Kelley, assistant vice provost for Equal Opportunity; Winn Decker, It’s On Us regional coordinator and a graduate assistant for Fraternity and Sorority Life; and Lisa LaBarbera-Mascote, director of the Women’s Center. Other representatives from the Office of Student Conduct, GLBT Center, Campus Police, and Fraternity and Sorority Life were also in attendance.

The presentations covered new campus initiatives including the SAFE at NC STATE website, sexual assault survey for undergraduate and graduate students, and It’s On Us campaign updates. The speakers also reminded students of existing programs and resources including Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the Silent Witness program.

The town hall concluded with a Q&A session. During this segment, LaBarbera-Mascote spoke about the Fraternity and Sorority Life task force on sexual assault and harassment prevention.

“About a year and a half ago there was an external review to look at the fraternity and sorority community,” LaBarbera-Mascote said. “Out of that came seven focus areas: sexual assault, harassment, credibility, values alignment, chapter operations, diversity and inclusion, and hazing. From that larger process, we whittled down to some task forces, and staff members that are on it include Robinette Kelley and Jess White, associate director of student conduct, as well as representatives from a number of chapters in Fraternity and Sorority Life.”

Paul Cousins, director of the Office of Student Conduct, clarified that students involved in underage drinking who witness or are survivors of sexual assault will not be charged with conduct violations.

“There isn’t a single case that I’ve seen in the last two years that didn’t involve alcohol or some substance,” Cousins said. “It makes it real hard for people in the moment to make decisions that they would make when they were sober.”

It was unclear whether Cousins’ comment addressed the perpetrators or survivors of those cases. “It’s important to remember that alcohol is the most commonly used date rape drug and that when someone is intoxicated they are unable to provide consent,” Lauren Frey, a senior studying environmental sciences and women and gender studies, said.

According to the Office of Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, alcohol is commonly used as a “date rape drug” by perpetrators who commit sexual assault.

“I liked hearing about all the programs,” Jessica Maynor, a junior studying genetics, said. “I’m interested in getting in contact with Winn [Decker] about the It’s On Us campaign and talking with the Women’s Center about the task force and possibly getting students involved in that.”

While some students spoke highly of the town hall, others were left desiring more.

“I think something that worries me about an event like this is that it sometimes preaches to the choir,” Frey said. “But I’m wondering how effective a town hall like this is at actually spreading the word. I think it’s a good chance for campus-affiliated partners and people to get to know each other but I don’t really know if that happened today. I’m hoping that there were at least a few people in the room that did learn something good and that they tell all of their friends.”

The majority of speakers were university administrators and staff, so there was less time for comments and questions from students. “I would have liked to hear more about the actual climate here on campus,” Joelle Fuchs, a junior studying neurology, said.


NCSU Women’s Center (Talley Student Union 5210) provides services to survivors of sexual violence regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. NCSU’s 24 hour sexual violence helpline is 919-515-4444.  Resources are also available from the GLBT center (Talley 5230) and from the Counseling center (2815 Cates Avenue).