The following was submitted by Ben Bradley, SU alum and member of A Men’s Issue…
In April of 2008, near the end of my junior year of college at Syracuse University, I received my most precious possession from Janet Epstein, Jill Sneider, and Mel Stoffel. I don’t mean precious in the “just an expression” kind of way; I mean that it is the most valuable thing that I own. It’s just a simple paperweight that says “Syracuse University R.A.P.E. Center Volunteer: Your Legacy Lives on.” It was given to me because at that time, the R.A.P.E. Center had been eliminated, its staff were changed to prevention specialists, and its ability to support students on campus had been egregiously crippled. It was given to me because R.A.P.E. Center student volunteers like me were in the middle of a semester-long campaign to restore the center to how it was before, when it was a center where countless students have gone for support since 1990, where it had been leading the way nation-wide in sexual assault advocacy long before the White House paid this issue any interest, where student groups like A Men’s Issue, Sex-Esteem, and e5m worked tirelessly to bring awareness and change minds in regards to sexual assault on this campus. It was given to me because the center’s future had been significantly jeopardized, and these three amazing people wanted me to have this small token to remember the special place in the basement of 111 Waverly Avenue.
Then, like now, students, facility, and staff came together from all parts of campus and stood together in defense of the Center. We compiled over 450 handwritten signatures (this was still back in the day before petitions were online) on our petition to bring the R.A.P.E. Center back from concerned students and faculty, held forums and rallies, wrote letters, and did everything we could to do to make things right again. Eventually and against all odds the Chancellor and administration returned the R.A.P.E. Center to its former brilliance, its name was awesomely rechristened to The Advocacy Center, and it went back to being the special and unique place that changes lives on a daily basis.
And now, in 2014, just a handful of years after students came together in a real and powerful way demanding a separate and fully supported Center on campus, The Advocacy Center has one again been eliminated. Today, June 4th, is its last day. Words cannot express how betrayed I feel by Syracuse University and how heartbroken I am that the administration could even consider such a decision, let alone once again make such a move without any student input, during the summer when students don’t even have a chance to participate. The Advocacy Center is the reason I am who I am today. Because of my experiences there I have dedicated my life to ending sexual violence and engaging men in real ways to work together to end this terrible issue that affects so many.
The paperweight says Your Legacy Lives On…I look at it every single day and become inspired all over again, because I remember how the Advocacy Center truly changed me for the better, how it gave me, this little dude from Virginia, the courage to believe that I could make a difference. I hope that somehow Chancellor Syverud sees this letter and all of the unbelievable action and support so many have given in support of the AC. I hope that he and the administration are open to dialogue and are receptive to the real wants and needs of students, which is bringing The Advocacy Center back to full capacity. But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I say that of all the truths I carry in my heart, of all the things I hold most important, my belief in The Advocacy Center, in Jill and Janet and Mel, and all the students who have come through its doors, in making a true difference for good in this world, is number one. It is the most
special place and thing I have ever been a part of. And it needs to come back. I say again, with all that I am, #BringBacktheAC.