I can’t trace an exact event that caused this constant campus-wide stress.
Partly, I think this began last year: the alumni letter, financial aid being cut…As a small study body changes or controversy are certainly soon noticed.
The “ alleged sexual assaults.” Even the phrase made me nauseous. I felt fear in not knowing. Fear in remembering. Fear in so many voices with so many different ideas and words. I wanted to know and understand what had happened, who to protect, who to feel angry at. I still don’t know.
I also felt proud. Proud that people started a conversation, proud that people–strong men and women–stepped forward and tried to create change with the administration. But the communication died as the controversy weakened. I know people are still afraid. I know many people whose voices have been lost because they feel they did not have a place to speak.
I tried to make a difference in one all- out effort that could give voice to the trauma, and body dismorphia that comes with the side effects of rape or molestation. One brave girl stood up and told me my event was offensive. At first I was so enraged! Of course fat, thin, or purple is beautiful. But then I realized she was right. The title: “ FAT TALK FREE WEEK” was deemed as exclusive and offensive. I never fully acted on what she said because I was afraid to look like didn’t know what I was doing
The end of last semester was full of high stress: the Senior Class referendum, conference week, and some ugly attacks on the SLC ANON forum. And with all that I could only think about how I was afraid to look stupid. People push themselves to be “ in the know” and not only above attacks but on the offensive. Gossip is such an ugly, brutal thing.
My name is Gaia Liotta. I make mistakes but I want to learn. I want us all to learn as a campus, that it is better to fail then to never try. It is better to question than to spread barbered words tipped with hate and misunderstanding. I believe it is better to listen when you don’t understand than to speak. And it is better to love then try and place your self-worth above another human being with gossip.
We are an insular campus. Our “social scene” is a bit weird. We were the high schoolers in the back of the classroom doodling or rough sketching a story-line. I’ve seen this brilliant light in each student. It’s a light that is extinguished by this distance from each other, this lack of communication, this need for understanding.
I am asking the students, along with the administration, to open ourselves to each other. So many stories are yet to be told. We need to recognize and communicate with each other. Controversy will happen. Rather then simply “ rise above it,” we need to open ourselves to each other a little more to stop this stress.
We need to be as brave as the girl that told me I was wrong, and stronger than I was by acting on it and starting a conversation that includes every voice and opinion.
It’s a lot harder. But it’s a life well lived.
Gaia Liotta ’14
Photo by Amit Sankaran