By EMILY HOLLINGSWORTH and ANDREW CRIDER
Feminists United on Campus held a march on Tuesday in an effort to create awareness about and open a discussion concerning rape culture on the University of Mary Washington campus.
The march began at 4 p.m. at the Anderson Center and ended at George Washington Hall. Representatives from the Feminists Majority Foundation, an organization that FUC President Paige McKinsey interned with, were present at the march and brought signs.
Students, both male and female, spoke after the march about their personal experience as feminists and encountering rape culture.
According to Bailey Meeks, English and gender studies double major and a member of FUC, the march generated student interest, as students joined in throughout the march.
“I thought it was a really decent turnout,” said Meeks.
Student group Student Anti-Violence Educators also attended the march. SAVE plays an integral role in organizing Take Back the Night, an event dedicated to raising awareness about sexual assault.
The march was organized in reaction to the controversy following the banning of the UMW men’s rugby club and to support those impacted by the discourse on social media.
“We thought there was need for solidarity and support for those impacted by events this year,” said McKinsey. “We felt people needed a space to express how these events impacted them.”
In addition to the march, FUC also created a petition addressed to President Rick Hurley, the administration and the Board of Visitors. The petition has several components, including a request that the administration organize a meeting concerning the men’s rugby team and how the administration could have handled it better.
The petition also asked that the administration create more resources to address sexual assault, including showing the documentary “The Hunting Ground,” and that the app Yik Yak be banned from being accessed through Apogee, UMW’s wireless network.
According to Mckinsey, the petition is designed to address a number of issues, not just Yik Yak.
“The petition does not only address the issue of Yik Yak but also asks for greater transparency from administration, that those involved in the rugby sanction come together to see how the process could be improved,” said McKinsey.
Meeks said she has seen the controversy take place through Yik Yak.
“I don’t think the feminists on this campus have done everything right, but in no way do they deserve the treatment they received,” said Meeks.
The debate on campus and social media has become a problem for the club as the debate has included negativity and ad hominem attacks. Perceiving threats, the club worked to establish a support system for itself.
“Our group has built up a great support system of faculty, staff and fellow student organizations that’s really helped us in coping,” said McKinsey.
The aim of FUC’s petition and march is to give students the opportunity to speak about their own personal experiences with rape culture and find solutions to end it. Students have responded positively as well as negatively to FUC’s activity on campus.
“Personally, I’ve had complete strangers walk up to me on campus or message me on Facebook thanking me for what the club has done,” said McKinsey.
For McKinsey, the turnout of the march demonstrated the values of the UMW community.
“I was really happy with the turnout and support from students, faculty, staff and administration,” said McKinsey. “It really showed what this community is about. ”