Universities join forces against violence

BY TESSA McLEAN | MAY 15, 2009 7:30 AM

The UI, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa will join together at UNI for a conference today on preventing and taking a stand against violence against women.

The three regent universities received a $1 million flagship grant from the U.S. Department of Justice in 2007, which has helped fund efforts to educate people and further the research on violence. Almost 100 people were registered to attend the conference by Thursday afternoon.

Keynote speaker Jason Laker, the dean of student affairs at Queens University in Ontario, said the conference is focusing on “breaking down the script.” He said today’s society emphasizes that to be masculine means to be violent.

“I am working on getting men involved and working together to end violence against women,” Laker said. “Most men don’t do bad things, but most bad things are done by men.”

He said his speech will focus on how faculty and staff can use what they learn in the classroom.
Laker was asked to speak by Harry Brod, who helped organize the conference, because of his expertise on the subject.

UI graduate student Jerrod Koon will deliver a presentation on the activities of the UI Men’s Antiviolence Council. Koon has worked with the other regent universities for a year, sharing resources and learning what works on each campus. The conference is a great opportunity for anyone who works with college men, he said.

“It’s a chance for anybody who works with college men to get involved; everybody on campus has a unique role to get men engaged and play a unique role in these men’s lives,” he said. “It’s a good resource for anyone coming to the university.”

The UI Men’s Antiviolence Council has grown substantially this year, Koon said. Members must go through a 15-hour training program to become a full-time volunteer. The group has nine members, and Koon said he hopes to train 10 to 15 more in the fall.

This month, the group has given a bystander workshop to almost 300 students on campus. The bystander education workshop focuses on what bystanders can do to prevent violence against women. Koon said the group hopes to triple that number in the fall.

UNI Associate Professor Michael Fleming, the associate director of the campus violence flagship grant and a codirector of the conference, said he wants the faculty, staff, and athletics personnel attending to gain skills on how to have conversations with peers about violence prevention.

“What we’re hoping to happen is help people gain an understanding and gain some skills on how not to remain silent and how we can support students on campus,” he said.

Fleming will present a breakout session at the conference focusing on violence prevention through the classroom with two other faculty members.

He noted they are planning to have a follow-up conference in the fall for students.

“Too often, we are in our own little silo and don’t talk across the campuses,” he said. “The networking and the collaboration [between the schools] is very important.”

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