Opinion: Sexual Assault is a Serious Issue
By Joshua Wagner
Dear Class of 2019,
It was a great honor to be selected graduation speaker for the Class of 2019. Growing up on a small farm in western Pennsylvania, it was not an expectation that I would attend college. That I will speak at commencement is a source of pride for my parents and grandparents who were not able to achieve a higher education. Earning the respect and congratulations from my peers has been an incredible privilege.
However, a petition is now floating about campus asking for me to be disinvited to speak. A satirical article from the 2018 April Fools Edition of The Gettysburgian has sparked some debate over whether I believe that sexual assault is a laughing matter. I would like to put that question to rest.
I believe that sexual assault is an incredibly serious issue. The 2016 Campus Climate Survey showed that 10% of students experienced unwanted sexual contact during their time at Gettysburg College. These statistics are troubling and point towards systematic problems that face our campus community. We need to create an atmosphere where sexual assault is not tolerated.
In combating sexual assault, I believe that we should use all rhetorical tools at our disposal including satire. Figures like Steven Colbert, Trevor Noah, and John Oliver use this tactic to great success—and on April First, so does The Gettysburgian. Some state that satire will never be an appropriate medium for addressing sexual assault, arguing that it trivializes the subject. That was not the intent.
My intent was to start a conversation about the prevalence of sexual assault at Gettysburg College and to point out where it can happen. Through my experiences at Gettysburg College, I learned that it is our duty to use our privilege to advocate for causes we are passionate about, to make our communities safer and better places. That was my intent.
To the petitioners, I would ask that they reach out to me. As an advocate against sexual assault, I am on their side. If they created a petition tasking the administration to stop sexual assault on campus, I would be the first to sign it.
I look forward to spending the next several weeks with a truly incredible cohort of Gettysburgians. Learning with you and from you has been the privilege of a lifetime.