Students march to protest sexual assault at UK

The UK Feminist Alliance along with other protesters marched through campus Friday afternoon in protest of UK’s handling of sexual assault and the policies that follow.

Male and female survivors and allies were advocating for their safety on campus, and urging President Eli Capilouto to release records in an investigation involving former associate professor, James Harwood.

The march started at 12:30 p.m. near the Woodland Glen basketball courts and followed the route around South Campus residence halls, W. T. Young Library, the main academic center of campus and the president’s house.

Protesters said they planned to keep marching until Capilouto responds or 5 p.m. Friday.

The UK Feminist Alliance organized the protest. 

Protestors carried signs that advocated for a change in UK’s sexual assault policy. The signs said phrases like “silence protects the abuser and imprisons the victim” and “Capilouto is not my president.”

Campus tour guides were told to reroute their course in order to avoid the protest.

“It was simply to make sure the tour guide — and the marchers — could be heard,” UK spokesman Jay Blanton said. “The tours, for example, normally stop at a number of locations, including Maxwell Place and we wanted both sides — the tours and the marchers — to have maximum room and space to both tour and march as well as have their voices heard.”

Sexual assault and misconduct awareness has been an increasingly popular topic of discussion around the university. When asked why the organization chose to march now, one of the event’s organizers Nadia Almasalkhi said it was because “it’s mainstream to condone sexual assault.”

Sexual assault is an “epidemic on campus right now,” Spanish sophomore and protestor George Boyd IV said. “We have to have radical change in the way we see women and each other.”

Blanton said that the university maintains its stance against the Kernel and the release of records in any form, despite the protest. 

“We cherish the expression of free speech and thought on our campus and we applaud and respect those who have spoken out today,” he said. “At the same time, we maintain that truly honoring the value of transparency and free expression in this issue is ensuring that the victim-survivor is allowed to choose whether, how and when to tell their stories.”

Title IX investigations and the university’s sexual assault policy have also been questioned by students across campus for gaps that have upset survivors.

“It isn’t a very effective system in the way it’s being carried out,” Almasalkhi said.

The Kernel recently published a letter from an anonymous survivor that brought attention to the efficacy of Title IX investigations.

Almasalkhi said the Kernel opened the group’s eyes to the “problem.” She believed Capilouto owes each student, especially survivors of sexual assault protections, transparency in the policies that are supposedly set to advocate for them.

Capilouto recently said in an email to campus that the drop in sexual assault reports were because of the Kernel’s, and other media’s, reporting.

“I think it made people more aware of the sexual assault policy,” Almasalkhi said.