On the morning of Sept. 23, I walked into Gardiner Hall and met with Tessa Chafin, the graduate assistant for the office of Social Equity, Inclusion, and Title IX. In addition to her role as a graduate assistant here at Shepherd University, Tessa is the coordinator for the annual Rams Rally for Respect, a demonstration of acceptance and advocacy for the affinity groups on campus and what they represent.
On first impressions alone, Tessa was excited about the interview. I came to her office 10 minutes early, but she seemed more than happy to start earlier than planned. Before this interview, I had never been to Gardiner Hall before or the office of Title IX, and I never interacted with Tessa in a one on one conversation. Tessa came across as enthusiastic about her work and how it will affect the students of Shepherd University. She hopes the event will provide students with empowerment and comfort.
When discussing the purpose and hope for the event in relation to Shepherd’s sense of community, Tessa stressed the importance of voices and bringing them together, which is the core of this event: “The main idea of it is bringing the community together in solidarity against violence.” The violence Tessa is referring to is the violence that underrepresented and underserved communities experience because of the lack of conversation and overall support there is for those communities.
As the nation slowly rebuilds from the effects of the pandemic, there are opportunities to represent and support African Americans, Indigenous groups, Hispanic communities, The LGBTQIA+ community, women, and many more marginalized groups. When discussing the importance of this event in relation to the pandemic, its effects and ability to bring to light the holes in our current system of government, Tessa said that “everyone has to work together to stand up to violence and to create a culture of respect.”
The structure of the rally is a march across campus where participants will chant and use their voices to speak out against violence that they see in their communities close to home and further away. At the end of the march, participants will get to hear from each of the affinity groups on campus, such as Students for Reproductive Rights, the Black Student Union, the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, the Disability Advocacy Group, Global Shepherd Students, and the Shepherd Environmental Organization. There will also be a surprise guest speaker present along with a representative from each of the affinity groups.
The rally is from 4:30-7:00 pm this Thursday, Sept. 30, starting from the Amphitheater and ending at Potomac Place lawn. Tessa hopes students, faculty and staff will come out to support Shepherd’s affinity groups and overall community.