By Sierra Hubbard, Staff Writer
KSU Men, a men’s rights group on campus, is pressing onward after recent allegations of connections to a hate group were put to rest.
KSU Men is led by Sage Gerard, a senior and computer science major.
“We are a community of men and women that talks about issues affecting men and boys,” Gerard said, “[We] advocate solutions for issues affecting male students on campus.”
In an anonymous email, an unnamed individual claimed that KSU Men is affiliated with a hate group and called for a review of the organization’s application “to ensure that KSUM meets KSU’s non-discrimination requirements.” The group in question is A Voice for Men, a sponsor of KSUM led by Paul Elam. Sage Gerard is also the collegiate activism director for A Voice for Men (AVfM).
Concerns raised in the email included the accusation that AVfM was listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The organization is known for denouncing chivalry and the institution of marriage, and their many articles condemning false accusations of rape against men.
Though it was confirmed that AVfM is not listed as a hate group by the SPLC, Paul Elam was more than willing to address these other issues.
Elam explains that the organization’s mission statement discouraging chivalry is meant to promote gender equality. “When we define chivalry, we’re talking about special treatment, special accommodations, special deference to women delivered by men,” Elam said. “That sort of social mentality is not consistent with the idea of equality.”
Denouncing marriage is more of a legal issue for AVfM.
“We denounce it as it is currently practiced and is currently affected by our family law system,” Elam said. “You’ll also note on that mission statement that we recognize that marriage has historically been a part of what we would call the fabric of our society and a very important part of it. But family courts have been corrupted to the point through the use of Title IV-D funding, through the bias against fathers in the courtrooms, the bias in custody disputes, the issuance of restraining orders without evidence or corroboration in order to get a leg up in the divorce, [this] makes it a very hostile environment.”
Elam also expresses the group’s concerns for children of these families. “Children that are alienated by fathers, through the use of the family courts, have the greatest tendency toward, what we would call, a negative impact on psycho-social factors, like truancy, teen pregnancy, drug use, criminality, you name it.”
The original email also claimed that AVfM “insists that 92 out of 102 rape cases are false accusations.” This information was pulled from a contributor’s article on AVfM’s website, and Elam denies that this is the position of his organization.
“No, the editorial position of AVfM is, I believe, the factual one, which is that nobody knows the percentage of allegations that are false,” he said. It’s not something that’s easily ascertainable. The estimates range anywhere from 2 percent to 45 percent and I saw one in one case that said 60 percent.”
“Our position is that in the end it doesn’t matter. If it’s 2 percent, that’s a lot of people falsely accused, Elam said. “Whatever the rate, it’s certainly a problem for the numbers of men that are accused of rape falsely.”
While Elam does not believe there is a strict ‘solution’ to this problem, he does believe in opportunities that can be taken to help the issue.
“I do think that educating young men on scenarios that can result in a false accusation is helpful,” he said. “I think that prosecutors and police being mandated to arrest and prosecute false accusers, which they currently cannot do, is a possible part of addressing the problem. And I think that educating people about the consequences of false accusations on the lives of people that are wrongly accused can also help be part of addressing the problem.”
In response to the concerned individual, Michael Sanseviro, the Dean of Students for KSU, sent an email explaining the university’s obligations to protect students’ constitutional rights on campus.
“As a university receiving public funding, we must afford freedom of speech on our campus, regardless of the content of that message or the parties delivering that message,” Sanseviro said. “Many student organizations affiliate, whether formally or informally, with organizations that do not adhere to the university’s nondiscrimination statement, but we can only focus on the specific behaviors and actions of the registered student organization itself and its members.”
Dr. Sanseviro confirmed in the email that no action will be taken against KSUM. “Attempting to silence the extreme or marginalized voices can risk a slippery slope of intolerance, and perceptions of what is extreme can vary greatly across time and place,” Sanseviro said. “At KSU we are committed to equal access for all voices.”
With these accusations put to rest and AVfM working as a sponsor and strong supporter, KSUM presses onward in its goals for male students on campus.
One of their objectives is to change the name of the Women’s Resource and Interpersonal Violence Prevention Center. The group wants ‘Women’s Resource’ taken out of the name.
“They offer services to both men and women at the Interpersonal Violence Prevention Center,” Sage Gerard said. “The problem is that, basically, they have a unisex restroom, but they taped a women’s sign over the unisex sign. So guys don’t even realize that the services are available to men.
The idea is to have a gender neutral name for that center so that men and women both understand that there’s a place for them.”
Shameka Wilson, director of the WRIVPC, disagrees with this viewpoint and does not believe such a change is feasible.
“I do not foresee the name of the WRIVPC changing in the near future,” Wilson said. “Men are more than welcome to take part in events and programs sponsored by the WRIVPC. In addition, the Assistant Dean of Student Success has met with the student officials of the KSU student organization, Kennesaw State University Men, and has informed them that the University is growing and that there may be opportunities in the future to develop a Men’s Resource Center.”
Until such an entity exists, however, KSUM will continue in its efforts to change the center’s name.
Secondly, the group wants to see changes to the Gender and Women’s Studies Program at KSU.
“What we want to do is we want to diversify the literature,” Gerard said. “In essence, there’s coverage for LGBT, black community, and women. But there’s no coverage necessarily for masculinity, at least not in a way that’s really sensitive to the male experience.”
Stacy Keltner, coordinator of the Gender and Women’s Studies Program, points out the many different areas covered. “If you look at our course offerings, you will see that our program is very diverse,” Keltner said. “We have courses on Masculinity Studies, Black Feminisms, Transnational Feminisms, Queer Theory and Sexuality, and we just passed a course on LGBTQ Identities that will launch next fall.”
This has been taken into consideration by KSUM, however, and does not satisfy their concerns.
“I don’t think that the masculinity studies course is approaching men with a good attitude,” Gerard said. “It approaches men with the attitude that they are, in essence, angry, incapable of controlling their emotions, and things of that nature. I don’t think that the masculinity studies course is fully representative of the full male perspective. Again, talking about renaming things, I’d say go ahead and call it Gender Studies. That branding thing doesn’t need to be as centric on one gender.”
Dr, Keltner defines gender as ‘multiple and variable’ and explains why the name includes women.
“To say that gender is ‘multiple and variable’ means that gender is not essentially determined by a two-sex biological model of difference,” Keltner said, “but by a multitude of factors that are not only much more physically complex and varied, but also social, political, cultural, and historical.
“When faculty came together in 2006 to found the interdisciplinary program at KSU, we wanted the name to reflect our academic ties to the student, civil rights, and women’s movements of the 1960s and 1970s, from which ‘Women’s Studies’ as an academic field was born. However, we also found it limiting and decided, therefore, to add ‘Gender’ to the title.”
Dr. Keltner concludes, though, that the program is anything but stagnant.
“Women’s, Gender, and Feminist Studies is, like other fields, growing and ever-changing,” she said. “We embrace this process and welcome contestation, complexity, and imagination.”
The last main goal of KSUM focuses on the RAD For Men program.
“The first and most major issue is that it’s not really a self-defense course,” Gerard said, disturbed by the language of the RFM manual and its insistence that men should stop sexual assault if they see it. “It’s one of those things where RFM does not have a practice that is indicative of really investing in the safety of male students. It’s rather trying to hold them responsible for things that could put them in great danger.”
Brandon Cortolano, the lead RFM instructor, explains that the program has a large focus on educating young men.
“Well, the purpose of RFM is to inform men that there’s more options available when they’re confronted in an aggressor type situation,” Cortolano said. “A lot of men have been brought up to stand up for themselves and fight back, and what RFM does is it teaches options, that you don’t always have to confront aggressive behavior with more aggressive behavior. You have an option to just turn around and walk out the door.”
Cortolano believes that the program is still a self-defense program and explains the dual purpose. “It’s a two-prong course where we teach you to educate yourself so you can be prepared in these confrontations, and the second part of it is learning the techniques in case there’s no way to escape without using force.”
He believes the RAD system is gender equitable and does not think that having a gender neutral class would be beneficial.
“With the women’s class, what we’re teaching is defense against abduction, whereas, with the RFM, we’re teaching men that they don’t have to fight all the time,” he said. “So that’s two different entities here.”
Cortolano’s other concern is the amount of survivors of encounters that take the class. “There’s a sense of comradery, you know, where the women can talk to each other and get comfortable with each other. And if you throw a man into the situation women may not open up as much or they may back down.”
Gerard does not think combining the classes is needed to promote gender equality. “I would say that just the removal of the gender roles is appropriate,” Gerard said.
KSU Men is holding a conference in the Student Center on Nov. 1, called Male Students in Peril, with several notable guest speakers on men’s issues and educational equity. Despite opposition, they invite all to attend the event and RSVP via ksum.eventbrite.com.
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