Today at noon the WSU community — students, faculty and staff — is invited to gather on the Terrell Mall for an Under the Big Tent discussion of sexual violence.
 
Organized by the Center for Civic Engagement, the discussion is the third in a series of monthly debates or discussions focusing on current issues facing the community. It is particularly timely in light of the alleged rape reported early Sunday; a sketch of the suspect is circulating in local media.
“The real of focus of this is starting a conversation,” said Greg Hooks, a professor of sociology and the moderator of the event. Hooks said each panelist will be asked to speak for 4 or 5 minutes, but the intent is for audience members to ask questions and respond to each other and to the panelists in constructive ways that advance a community discussion of the issue.
“We want to literally bring this out into the mall and talk about it,” said Lorena O’English, another organizer of the event. “The most important panelists are the audience.”
Starting a conversation is also the slogan of the WSU Campus Campaign Against Sexual Assault which was launched last spring, but is continuing in an abbreviated form this fall.
“We really firmly believe that getting to freshmen in beneficial,” said Paula Adams, communications coordinator at Health and Wellness Services. The first semester is a time of transition, she said, “students are on their own for the first time, with more freedom” and it is important for them to understand the risks and what they can do to protect themselves.
“We’re trying to do what we’re telling everyone to do,” Adams said. “We’re trying to start a conversation.”
The WSU Campus Campaign Against Sexual Assault is separate from the CCE’s Under the Big Tent debate/discussion series on Terrell Mall, but both are hoping to engage the entire WSU community in a discussion of the issue.
Panelists for the Under the Big Tent discussion of sexual violence are Cassie Nichols, Counseling Services and WSU’s sexual assault response coordinator; Jerry Pastore, also from Counseling Services, Nikki Finnestead, coordinator of sexual assault services for Alternatives to Violence on the Palouse, and Angie Jeffries, a WSU student who works with the Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Task Force.