Tapes of a U.S. presidential candidate boasting of his lewd behavior towards women were released on Friday, October 7. The tapesâ€™ release coincided with the second-to-last run of â€œGood Kidsâ€, a play that speaks out against sexual assault.
Austin Davidson, first year, played one of the assault perpetrators in â€œGood Kidsâ€.
â€œIt was sexual assault,â€ Davidson said of Donald Trumpâ€™s comments. â€œBeing part of the show where I played one of the guys who did this, and then watching a man who maybe is going to lead our country saying this blows my mind.â€
During the last presidential debate, the moderator also accused Trump of sexual assault. Trump protested, labeling his comments as â€œlocker-room talk.â€
â€œAnything that can be portrayed as harmful to women is not just â€˜locker-room talkâ€™. Itâ€™s violent rhetoric,â€ said first-year Chiara Pride after watching the debate.
Katie Farrell, senior who played a disabled sexual assault victim in â€œGood Kidsâ€, said that it is wrong to label what Trump said as â€œlocker-room talkâ€.
â€œLocker room talk in this situation is not a geographical place,â€ Farrel said. â€œWhat it stands for is conversation, actual conversation. How can you deny rape culture when youâ€™ve seen that? Itâ€™s right there, a nominee for the president of the United States, engaging in rape culture and years later excusing it because of rape culture.â€
Tim Oâ€™Sullivan, Title IX coordinator and vice president of Academic Affairs, has noticed a strong student reaction to the tapes.
â€œWe did have a conversation about the recording before my Latin class yesterday,â€ Sullivan said. â€œIt was fresh in everyoneâ€™s minds.â€
Students are wrestling with how an issue like sexual assault should affect their choice in the 2016 election. Some feel forced into an unappealing decision.
â€œIâ€™m very against Donald Trump and his rhetoric,â€ Pride said. â€œI was not originally fully supportive of Hillary Clinton, but Iâ€™ve definitely come around to her since our alternative is not the best.â€
Others see sexual assault as a personal issue without little political relevance.
â€œFor now I prefer Trump,â€ said first-year Shiyu Liu, â€œI think heâ€™s right that Americans are losing jobs, and the reduction of taxes can attract many investments and create job opportunities. I think his meaning is that people shouldnâ€™t talk about some statements he made 10 years ago and forget about policies that are important to the society and the economy.â€
Senior Conor Young disagrees.
â€œThe president is a person and so must have some kind of character,â€ Young said. â€œSo while Iâ€™m not saying that the president has to be some kind of moral paragon, I do think character is a real issue as much as anything else.â€
As a member of the Iota Chi Rho fraternity, Young is very involved with Greek life. Farrell, a theater major, not only played a leading role in â€œGood Kidsâ€ but co-founded a theater company called 180 Shift last spring. Young and Farrell are collaborating to use an approach called â€œforum theaterâ€ to address the issue of sexual assault across campus, including athletics and Greek life. Farrell and Young both believe the campus sexual-assault dialogue is relevant to the 2016 presidential election.
â€œPeople love to talk about a sex scandal or whatever is breaking in national news,â€ Young said. â€œThe problem is they are not trying to advocate for change or say sexual assault is bad. Theyâ€™re saying â€˜that political party is badâ€™ based on the sexual assault committed by one of its top members. We use survivors as props.â€
â€œOne of the future presidents of the United States is probably in college right now, and of course the people who will elect that person,â€ Farrell said. â€œSo it is important to educate ourselves on issues like sexual assault, like rape culture. Itâ€™s vital to how we address the world for the rest of our lives, especially in terms of politics and elections.â€
The forum-theater project fits into Trinityâ€™s ongoing conversation about sexual assault.
â€œThe conversation was started by students,â€ said Sheryl Tynes, professor of sociology and vice president for Student Life. â€œThere were some Trinity-related cases, some high-profile cases that got a lot of attention, stuff that came out in social media.â€
The Coalition for Respect was formed in 2014 in part because of Trinity studentsâ€™ concerned reactions to these cases. Oâ€™Sullivan hopes students will take this initiative to the national level, especially in the wake of Trumpâ€™s statements.
â€œThereâ€™s this sense that colleges are dealing with different kinds of problems than the rest of the country, but these are national problems, international problems,â€ Oâ€™Sullivan said. â€œI think that video is a disturbing reminder of what we already knew – that this is an important issue and we need to keep working on it.â€
Tynes shares Oâ€™Sullivanâ€™s vision.
â€œAs a sociologist, I am always trying to get a handle on what can be done to make things better, because otherwise itâ€™s just depressing,â€ Tynes said. â€œIf you think about the womenâ€™s movement or LGBT movement or civil rights movement, those movements made a difference. Thatâ€™s the way change happens, people saying itâ€™s unacceptable the way things are. My hope is that a Trinity student who has gone through the things weâ€™re talking about, like New Student Orientation and the Coalition for Respect, will know this is not OK.â€