The School of Communications’ journalism workshop course created Southern Miss TV’s first Special newscast that discussed the disconnection between students and administrations about USM’s Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures.
“USM’s Indifference: Demands for Sexual Assault Justice Unanswered” challenged students to explain their call for a Zero-Tolerance policy regarding sexual assault, but the project requested the administration’s thoughts on the call for a change to the policy.
Journalism Workshop instructor Dr. Edgar Simpson allowed his students to put the entire project together.
Students did everything from editing the actual newscast to conducting each interview in the newscast. The interviewees included survivors, USM’s Sexual Assault Prevention Ambassadors’ Bella Brocato, Dean of Students Sirena Cantrell and more.
The administrators, Dean of Students Sirena Cantrell and Director of Compliance and Ethics Paul Walters, made contradicting statements on the current policies at the university.
Cantrell discussed retention for students that are found responsible for sexual misconduct.
“Now, if you’re a repeat offender here, then we’re, we might suspend you because you’re not listening or you’re not truly wanting to make a change,” Cantrell said.
Walters’ comments implied that USM does not promote retention because he said that the school has a policy that resembles a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual assault. This acts as a direct contradiction to the comments made by the dean of students.
“Our policy is zero tolerance,” Walters said. “We don’t tolerate sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, period.”
The survivors involved in the project mentioned their thoughts on the USM’s Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures, and senior Morgan Myres shared her ideas for what a zero-tolerance policy looks like to her.
“If you’re proven guilty, you should not be on campus, and you should never be allowed to be back on campus. And that’s the end of it. That’s what zero tolerance is to me,” Myres said.
USM’s Sexual Assault Prevention Ambassadors President Isabella Brocato, who is pushing for the university to adopt an official zero-tolerance policy, shared information about sexual assault on university campuses found in a study by Jim Hopper, a nationally recognized expert on psychological trauma.
“If you can diminish campus sexual assaults by 90%, just by eliminating a person we know has already committed a crime, then why not,” Brocato said.
The projects discussed several subtopics, g policy and procedures for help, other universities’ policies, students’ responses and solutions.
Each newscast segment was covered by a different set of student reporters who covered various aspects of the situation. Student reporter Sarah Kofman worked with her partner on the main bar of the project.
Kofman believes the project displays the nature of the situation at the University of Southern Mississippi for viewers to absorb.
“The story is something that I connected more with the students’ side than the administrative side, but you find the middle ground by letting each side speak for itself,” Kofman said. “I didn’t have to choose a side, and any viewer doesn’t have to choose a side either because each side tells their story.”
Brocato and a graduate student at USM are currently drafting a new version of USM’s Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures, which they will present to the administration in hopes of meeting at least somewhere in the middle. Brocato wants to give students like Myres what they want.
“I just don’t think Southern should be accepting anybody back that has done that on campus, and I don’t understand what’s so hard about that to get,” Myres said.
For more information about “USM’s Indifference: Demands for Sexual Assault Justice Unanswered,” visit the project’s website at https://usmsindifference.wixsite.com/my-site, which will link you to the articles and videos for each segment and the final newscast.
You can also watch the project on the Southern Miss Student Media Center’s YouTube page on the last Southern Miss TV episode of the semester premiering on May 5.
For more information about SAPA and its resources, visit their social media accounts @usm.sapa on Instagram and Sexual Assault Prevention Ambassadors-SAPA on Facebook.
If you are a survivor or need support, the USM Title IX office is available on the first floor of the Cook Library in room 129, or they can be contacted at 601-266-6804 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.