Speaker addresses safety concerns

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Diversity and inclusion consultant and presenter Jamie Utt told University of South Dakota students Monday night during his presentation, “The Wall,” he had been told ‘this place is not safe,’ after speaking to people on campus.

“I have heard a lot of voices here to know there is a lot of work to be done to be safe,” Utt said.

USD Student Services and the Student Government Association invited Utt for an impromptu presentation on diversity and sexual violence prevention.

Utt said to students in attendance to keep an open mind, follow the truth, maintain self-reflection and listen to gut reactions as some steps to create the awareness.

As part of the presentation, students wrote on poster board some of the worst possible things students could think of when dealing with different genders, ethnic groups and sexual orientations Monday afternoon.

The boards were displayed at Aalfs Auditorium in Slagle Hall while Utt read some of the vulgar statements. His speech then focused on two parts — racism and sexual violence.

Lindsay Sparks, assistant director of student life, said Utt’s presentation was in response to address “things that have happened on campus.”

“We also have been trying to get him here, and this was his earliest availability,” she said.

Sparks said her goal was to inspire students to open a dialogue, join groups outside of their comfort zones and have a chance to ask questions.

Similarly, SGA President Erik Muckey said open dialogue is the key to addressing racism and sexual violence.

In a question-and-answer session, Utt said while spending time on USD’s campus he recommended administration to invest in an inclusive environment.

Utt then shifted the conversation to sexual assault. He told the audience one in four to one in six women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest Center.

“Jamie has been on our campus before, and a lot of students really trust Jamie,” Sparks said.

Utt challenged the audience with the question, “what can we do in our communities to make sure everyone feels safe?”

Alexis Oskolkoff, a non-traditional student and SGA senator, said after an incident during Dakota Days involving race, she received emails from students of different cultures.

“It wasn’t just a Native American issue. It turned into an issue of all diverse backgrounds and that they didn’t feel safe on campus,” Oskolkoff said.

Oskolkoff said she thought the Dean of Students office and SGA did a good job advertising the event despite the short notice. The Student Services Office sent a campus-wide email at 9 a.m. Monday.

After the Q&A session, audience members were encouraged to go on stage and tear off pieces of the poster board to keep as a reminder about bigotry.

“Tear down these walls of hate,” Utt said.