Columbia students, staff ask campus to ‘face’ sexual assault

By Campus Reporter

As sexual assault awareness remains a prominent topic on college campuses, Columbia is keeping the conversation going.

“Face It,” created by  sophomore art + materials conservation major and President of the Student Government Association Sara Kalinoski, and sophomore art + design student Robin Hopkins, consists of mirrors in the lobbies of multiple campus buildings, including the 600 S. Michigan Ave., 618 S. Michigan Ave., 623 S. Wabash Ave. and 731 S. Plymouth Court buildings. The mirrors, which will be on display until the end of February, have words etched into the glass and contain an artist statement about self-reflection and giving an identity to victims of sexual assault.

The college’s Sexual Assault Awareness Education Committee, which was founded this academic year, sponsored the art installation and tries to have one activity or event each month focused on a different branch of outreach, according to Matthew Test, administrative assistant in the office of the Dean of Students and a member of the committee.

Test said the committee, which consists of members from Residence Life, Student Health and Support and Counseling Services, had not yet created an art piece to spread awareness.

“[We wanted to use] the artistic skills that the students bring as well as collaborating with the staff to see something focused on internal reflection, which was an avenue of outreach that we hadn’t explored yet,” Test said. “[To be] able to do that in a creative way within a creative setting was pretty important.”

Kalinoski said as a member of the committee, she was assigned the month of February as her month to create something related to sexual assault awareness. She said she was interested in using mirrors and the idea of “facing” oneself.

“It can be powerful for students when they look at it to spread awareness, help victims and give self-confidence to students,” Kalinoski said.

Once she realized she was going to need assistance with the art project, Kalinoski said one of the committee members reached out to art + design students and found Hopkins.

Hopkins said she responded to the committee’s request for student assistance because she has a personal desire to help spread awareness about the issue.

“I thought it would be good for me to get involved in something like this as a personal way of healing and to help others heal from things like that,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins said it was not only a good experience collaborating with a fellow student, but also with the committee’s staff members.

“They were really supportive and very excited,” Hopkins said. “They let us just go with it and there was a lot of anticipation on their part to see what we came up with.” 

Test said the issue of sexual assault is important for both students and staff to work on together.

“It’s a good idea to have a multitude of voices and different representation to show that this is a community-wide issue,” Test said. “It doesn’t just affect students. It doesn’t just affect staff. In order to use the artistic creativity the students have while also bringing in the support side that the staff can bring provides a helpful, symbiotic relationship in terms of the outreach.”

Hopkins said she hopes that these mirrors inspire whoever sees them to become more educated on the issue.

“I hope they see themselves and see that this is something that happens to real people,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins said she hopes the college continues to try making sexual assault a topic of priority. Creating this committee is a step in the right direction, but Columbia still needs to make improvements with getting students more involved in the conversation, she said.

“Sexual assault is an epidemic that is continuing to happen on campuses, and as a culture; it’s something that we need to spread awareness to help stop or help to support and not just have bystanders,” Kalinoski said. “If we’re all educated on it, hopefully we can help people prevent it.”