With a seesaw and a few dedicated students, Sigma Phi Epsilon kicked off their Sexual Assault Awareness Week Monday outside Maucker Union. This week marks Sig Ep’s third year of taking part in Sexual Assault Awareness Month through their SAAW, a five-day marathon of events on campus.
“It needs to be prevented, and that’s why we started this,” said Ryan Biegger, junior accounting major and executive member of SAAW.
Black and white headshots of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity members can be seen around campus, on computer screens in computer labs and bulletin boards in dining centers and hallways, reading, “I stand against sexual assault,” with the depicted member’s signature. Biegger said there was strategy in this method. The familiar faces were intended to attract attention and further spread awareness of the issue at hand.
“The last couple years, we haven’t had the best campaigning. Dustin Toll came to me with this idea and I loved it,” Biegger said. “A lot of the guys on the flyers are guys that helped me in the committee getting this all together. The others are highly involved on campus that would be recognized.”
Along with the headshot tactic to spread the word, Sigma Phi Epsilon has been using social media as a campaign method since SAAW’s beginning. #BeTheDifference is the campaign slogan that can be seen in tweets and on the event Facebook page.
“I think the difference in standing out is being the active bystander that can step in at any time when you see something,” Biegger said when asked about SAAW’s #BeTheDifference campaign slogan.
To ensure that Sigma Phi Epsilon members #BeTheDifference, members are educated on how to properly intervene in situations where sexual assault is present through Mentors in Violence Prevention training. SigEp has gone as far as reaching out to other chapters to make this a requirement for all.
“We just want to show that we are trying to prevent this from happening and that we stand up against it,” Biegger said. “It’s a big deal and fraternities kind of get a negative connotation with that and we just want to show that we are different than everyone and that’s why our slogan on the wristbands and in tweets is ‘Be The Difference.’”
Each day this week has featured a different event on campus. Monday was the 24-hour see-SAAW event that required fraternity members to remain outside of the Union and alternate use of the seesaw from noon on Monday until noon on Tuesday.
“A guy last year created it as kind of a play on words for SAAW, but its real intention is to show that sexual assault can happen at any time and that was the main reason for the 24 hours,” Biegger said.
Tuesday’s theme was to encourage students to wear teal in order to recognize and raise awareness for sexual assault on campus. UNI police hosted a self-defense class as well. On Wednesday, the Sigma Phi Epsilon members hosted their annual SNAG talent show to raise funds for Cedar Valley Friends of the Family, a violence prevention program and shelter. This event offers a raffle and a date auction.
“I think that’s just our biggest one [event] because we’ve always done it. We’d love to have people there because that’s where we raffle stuff off and raise a lot of money,” Biegger said. “It’s a talent show with some of our members and they get auctioned off for a date. It’s kind of just a fun way to raise money for Cedar Valley Friends of the Family.”
Kevin Teets will be speaking in the Commons Ballroom on Thursday. Teets is an assistant county attorney in Nashville, Tenn. The majority of his experience deals with cases committed against college-aged individuals and cases that involve sexual assault on college campuses.
“The biggest event I want to hit on this year is our speaker. Not just because we’re flying him in, but because of the fact that he works with college students and is able to get real-life examples of college students that will be relatable for everyone,” Biegger said.
In addition to Sigma Phi Epsilon’s awareness week, other organizations will be raising awareness of sexual assault throughout the month of April.
“I hope that students become more aware of their surroundings and realize that there are other organizations dedicated to this on campus that help with this,” Biegger said.