Published December 12, 2016
The “UB’s Got Your Back” campaign to help victims of sexual assault and violence was a huge success, campaign co-organizers report, thanks to donations and support from faculty, staff and students across the university.
The campaign met its goal of assembling 300 comfort kits — small bags containing personal care items and clothing that are given to victims of sexual assault and violence seeking help from rape crisis and domestic violence shelters. Victims frequently meet with Crisis Services of Erie County advocates at the hospital. Many times their clothing is taken as evidence.
UB worked with Crisis Services on the campaign, which was part of the yearlong, system-wide “SUNY’s Got Your Back” project.
Kesha Lanier, associate director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and campaign co-organizer, says she never anticipated the overwhelming response from the UB community: Nearly 6,000 items were donated for the comfort kits, 50 UB student groups and clubs took part in the campaign, and 200 faculty, staff and students gathered on Oct. 19 in the Student Union Flag Room to assemble the kits.
“My heart was warmed by the support and how much people cared because they saw the importance of it,” Lanier says. “Nobody indicated they didn’t want to be there. When they showed up, they rolled up their sleeves and went to work.”
To reach the goal of assembling 300 kits, Lanier worked with numerous university divisions and organizations, including the Professional Staff Senate, Faculty Senate, Student Association (SA), University Life & Services, and the Division of Athletics.
“All the divisions of the university came together to help achieve this goal,” she says. “I cannot think of any divisions within the university that didn’t participate.”
In particular, Lanier collaborated with Kathy Twist, senior associate athletic director for sports administration and senior woman administrator, because, she says, sexual assault is an issue of great importance to the Division of Athletics.
“Education and awareness of prevention of sexual assault is extremely important to them,” she says. “It was integral to collaborate with the Division of Athletics because athletes are viewed as campus leaders who can help shape campus culture.”
UB Athletics provided Lanier with a van to collect donated items across campus. Moreover, Athletics Director Allen Greene, the entire women’s softball team and many other student-athletes showed their support for the cause by volunteering on Oct.19.
To get student clubs involved in the campaign, Lanier worked with Maisha Tasmin, student affairs director for SA, who helped coordinate student participation by notifying clubs about the campaign. SA also provided space to house and sort donations, and donated flip-flops for each comfort kit.
Lanier says the response from student groups exceeded her expectations. She says the day before the kits were assembled, she found a pile of bags filled with donated clothing, each bag with a tag identifying the individual student group that made the donation.
“My heart was warmed because it was unexpected,” she says. “It was the icing on the cake because it showed how much student groups cared. I saved all the tags because I want to personally reach out and thank them.”
UB’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed. Shortly after the comfort kits were handed over to Crisis Services, Lanier received an email from Robyn Wiktorski-Reynolds, advocate program coordinator for the organization. “Thank you for your tremendous support during ‘UB’s Got Your Back!’ We are stocked for an entire year to support sexual assault survivors at our local hospitals,” she wrote.
Lanier notes that a lot of work, time and manpower went into the campaign. “It is not an EDI success; it is a university success,” she says. “It took everyone’s help to get to the point of exceeding our goals.”
Jessica Coram, co-organizer of the campaign and assistant director of EDI, says she hopes the campaign helped students learn about sexual assault and violence, and the on-campus resources available to those who may need them.
Coram points out that nationally about one in five students report having an unwanted sexual experience while attending college, which could prevent them from completing their education.
“UB is committed to all of our students’ successes,” she says. “We want to make sure students know this is a welcoming place for all of our students, including those who had unwanted experiences.”
Adds Lanier: “Sexual assault is a traumatic experience. It is important for us to comfort victims of domestic and sexual violence.
“We have students and employees that go to Crisis Services,” she notes. “Providing support to these individuals is crucial.”
For more information on “UB’s Got Your Back” or to make a donation, visit the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion website.