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On Monday, Utah State University President Noelle Cockett launched one of her first acts as president: the “I Will” pledge campaign.
The campaign is part of a series of movements aimed to raise awareness about sexual assault on USU’s campus.
The series began in fall 2014, when the Utah State University Student Association (USUSA) joined the “It’s On Us” national bystander campaign launched by then-Vice President Joe Biden.
Since then, USU has participated in a “Consent Is” campaign, explaining what qualifies as proper consent for sexual activity, along with a new online system, where students can report sexual assault or misconduct.
As part of the campaign, students are asked to sign an online pledge stating they will not “tolerate jokes or any behavior that permits sexual assault, step in if they see warning signs of sexual assault, not assume someone else will stop sexual assault and believe and help survivors of sexual assault,” Cockett wrote in a news release.
Although the campaign was launched on USU’s campus, Cockett said it is a much larger issue.
“This isn’t just something that happens at universities. This can happen in high schools or adult gatherings; all of us need to have the conversation,” Cockett said.
Cockett also emphasized that while USU is known for being a safe campus, the issue of sexual assault is still prevalent here.
Cockett also discussed the recent media attention USU received with regard to its number of sexual assault incidents over the past two years.
“With all the attention that’s going on in the newspapers, my message is: it happens here. USU seems really safe and Logan seems really safe but it still happens here,” Cockett said.
The “I Will” campaign was led by student-athletes, USUSA, members of Greek organizations and students from a USU service-learning course.
Adewale Adeoye, a USU football player, said “a lot of people aren’t aware of this and people need to be aware of this and people need to be aware of it so sexual harassment and assault can stop,” which is why he supported the campaign.
Grace Mcquire, a USU soccer player, also said she supported the campaign because she is a strong advocate against sexual assault and violence.
“I think showing that all different types of people at Utah State care about this is important,” Mcquire said.
While USU has received an abundance of media attention due to recent sexual assault allegations occurring on its campus, this series was being created before this attention.
“Preventing sexual assault and supporting survivors has been a USU priority for a long time,” said Amanda DeRito, the USU social media coordinator.
USU’s courses of action began under former-USU President Stan Albrecht’s leadership and have continued under Cockett’s.
“All of these [efforts] were little pieces that were initiated when President Albrecht was president — now President Cockett is carrying the torch to continue these efforts,” said James Morales, the vice president for student affairs.
In addition, a new sexual assault force, implemented in October by Albrecht, will continue to strive toward sexual assault prevention efforts.
Those who took the pledge are being asked to post pictures of themselves on their social media with “#usuiwill” — these pictures can be found at iwill.usu.edu.