New Group On Campus Wants To Prevent Sexual Misconduct — By Having Men Acknowledge Their Role in Rape Culture

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Amidst overwhelming amounts of stories of sexual misconduct in the news, a group of men on campus has taken the first step towards addressing their own role in rape culture at NYU. Men Against Rape and Sexual Misconduct (MARS) is a new collaborative initiative headed by CAS senior Khalil Hall.

The core leadership group of MARS, made up of men from different schools within NYU, began by communicating with other organizations that have already been combatting sexual misconduct, on and off-campus, such as the Students for Sexual Respect, the Feminist Society, the Feminists of Color Coalition, and the Panhellenic Council.

“In founding MARS, something that was super important for us was ensuring that it wasn’t being developed without the counsel of the broader NYU community, specifically those that have…already been doing this kind of work on campus,” said Hall.

“I think we have certainly been careful, especially early on, to get a lot of voices,” said MARS supporter and Steinhardt senior Adam Kirschner. “I feel like we have been doing some soul searching in developing [MARS], but [with community input] we know that whatever our next steps are will maximize the amount of change we can make.”

While existing groups on campus are doing similar work, MARS is unique in its emphasis on men’s responsibility to change the existing culture and attitudes towards sexual misconduct.

“The way that masculinity and rape culture in social settings [and] the way that male-identifying people especially contribute to and participate in this larger conversation is very unique,” said Hall. “For men who are interested in this work and want to contribute in some way — and maybe they’re not sure how or they’re just saying they are interested — this is really putting it into action.”

Kirschner agreed. “One of the reasons this is an important and unique group is that, in this Post-Weinsteinian era (Hall: “Is that what we’re calling it now?”), a lot of people who identify as male want to do something about it and there’s a certain…longing to work on this issue as men.”

“We do recognize that men are not the only…perpetrators when it comes to transgressions of sexual misconduct, nor are people who are not men…the only people who are victims of sexual misconduct,” said Hall. “But what we’re doing is addressing the very specific component…that is how male identified people need to do better.”

To Kirschner and Hall, the best way to turn words into actions and create a “constructive framework for men” is through education.

“One thing that we’re doing is connecting predominantly male organizations or male subsets of groups that are interested to the counseling and wellness office,” said Hall. “There’s existing resources on campus, like consent zone training [and] bystander training, that many students aren’t aware of…but are willing to participate in.”

Next steps for the initiative include continuing their photo campaign, which highlights how men in the community can help dismantle rape culture with #HowIWillChangeNYU and hosting a public kickoff event on Dec. 13.

Kirschner and Hall hope to get a lot of feedback from the community, especially from students who do not identify as men, about what needs to be done on-campus before they lay out their next steps.

“Gender-based violence is an issue that doesn’t affect every community and every group the same way,” said Kirschner. “We want to make sure that MARS really caters itself best to NYU and the issues we face specifically on campus.”

This feedback may also take on the form of “an official advisory board that will consistently check up on and oversee the work we’re doing…to make sure that it is concerted, responsible allyship,” said Hall.

“This is a new initiative so we’re open to feedback from anyone about what MARS needs to do, what MARS can be, and we are developing all the time,” Hall reminded Local. “Hopefully, things that we gather with MARS, with the community, can really be met with structural change and can influence cultural change. And that’s really the goal here. Changing the culture around issues like this is very difficult but we’re not backing down from the challenge, so let’s see what we can do.”

The initiative’s event, “MARS: Preparing For Launch,” will take place in Kimmel 903 on Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m. and is open to the entire NYU community.