The men arriving at Tuesday night’s “Men’s Summit” were greeted by large stacks of pizza and many bottles of Menno Tea.
While some at the gathering initially admitted to being drawn in by the food and were unsure of the event’s purpose, most of the 30 men in attendance left with positive reflections on the night. The Men’s Summit was organized in tandem with a number of other events on campus during this week of sexual assault awareness. Students Quinn Brenneke, Joshua Hertzler, Seth Martin, Joel Meyer and Alan Smith, along with Char Hochstetler, director of counseling, all worked hard to organize the event. Six male faculty and staff from campus were also asked to sit in on the discussion to contribute to the conversations.
The night officially began with a thank you and introduction by the student leaders. They explained that the event was intended to provide a chance for men on campus to talk in private about issues that are difficult to discuss openly. The assurance of trust and seclusion was an important factor in fostering discussion.
Once the introductions were over, groups of six sat at round tables and spent the next hour conversing. Questions from facilitators covered the male perception of sexual assault on campus, and the role of men in creating a positive environment. Each table naturally covered a number of similar topics. The groups expressed frustrations with humor and common culture that leaves male-driven sexual harassment unchecked. Groups also touched on the difficulty men face when they feel unjustly associated with the heinous crimes perpetrated by a minority of their sex.
Perhaps reflected by the initial ambiguity of the night’s purpose, an underlying theme was the uncertainty men have over what exactly their role should be in fighting sexism and sexual assault. Pondering that question was the intent of the night. One student reflected that "it was refreshing to be able to openly discuss an issue as difficult as sexual assault." Most of the men in attendance were of similar opinions.
A sophomore, while finishing his piece of pizza, added, “This was definitely a positive event. Groups like this help people to get their feelings out and bring such a touchy issue into the daylight.”
For other men on campus who may be interested in attending similar forums, a regularly meeting men’s group is in the works.