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Stand By Me Faces Lively Debate at Thelmo

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By EMERY YOUNGER and JONATHAN TEN EYCK
NEWS EDITOR and DIGITAL EDITOR

One of the key events first-year students attend during orientation is presented by Stand by Me, a bystander awareness club formed in 2015 in response to new Title IX regulations that presents skits related to preventing sexual assault.

At Wednesday’s Thelmo meeting, Stand By Me requested organizational status from the student government. Organizational status is a procedural matter that allows on-campus groups to receive a budget from the SLU’s Student Activity Fund. Generally, organizational status is granted with little debate among senators. On Wednesday, however, Stand By Me’s request was met with opposition from the student government.

Senator Liz Castricone ’17 objected to the group’s elevation to organizational status, citing concerns that the club’s stated goals have not translated into clear actions. Castricone asked that the club show improvement in key areas, such as increasing diversity of members, conducting judicial checks and training for potential members, and making the group’s skits more inclusive. Others felt that the club’s skits had inappropriately portrayed transgender individuals. Senator Rebecca Gray ’18 noted that the group’s skits failed to showcase scenes with LGBTQ individuals.

Rian Falcon ’18, who serves as Thelmo’s Chair for Diversity and Inclusion, also addressed the homogenous nature of the organization and asked whether the membership of Stand By Me reflected the diversity of the University. In response to this Dean of Student Life Joe Tolliver, who advises Stand By Me, asked the Senate whether any SLU organization truly meets this standard of diversity.

Prior to the meeting, unconfirmed rumors circulated that a member or members of the organization had been engaged in sexual misconduct. During the debate Dean Tolliver addressed this hearsay head on. “What somebody is saying is you have people walking around that we know could be out of line sexual violence wise and we don’t want them in this organization,” said Tolliver. “I agree with that statement but I’m also wondering if you guys know that there are people out there that might be doing sexual violence whether in this organization or not, why doesn’t the Title IX officer know that?” he added. “And if it’s not true if it’s rumor or gossip why is there character assassination?” Tolliver concluded.

Throughout the meeting, members of Stand By Me reiterated their commitment to embrace Thelmo’s suggestions in their future. “We initially had objections because of concerns and we addressed those concerns and showed Thelmo the progress we have made in a week,” explained Amanda Polloni ’19, who serves as President of Stand By Me. All members of Thelmo did not accept the organization’s assurances that they would make adjustments. The Senate approved the group’s request 27-14, with 6 abstentions, a stark contrast to the meeting’s three other nearly unanimous votes. “I don’t feel comfortable giving approval to their organization until they do things to prove to me that they are making these steps in terms of diversity and inclusion,” stated Castricone.

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Jonathan Ten Eyck