This post was written by Elena Goddard, fourth-semester songwriter, pianist, and music business/management student from Smithers, British Columbia. She is the executive coordinator of Berklee’s Student Government Association, chair of STAND, and a peer advisor. This is the first of a two-part blog post.
It all began earlier last summer. The White House contacted me (as I’m part of student government) and asked me to join them in a conference call with all Boston-area student governments to explain a new initiative. The initiative was called “It’s On Us” and was going to be aimed at raising awareness and prevention of sexual assault on college campuses. I was part of the first conference call in which they laid out the timeline for the initiative and explained the resources that were available, but what stuck with me most was the request to “personalize this initiative to your college campus.”
Berklee is all about individuality. Students at Berklee form remarkable bands, collaborate with others, and have amazing success at teams, but so much of that stems from the fact that each student here at Berklee is unique and accepts each others’ differences.
So when I thought about forming an initiative at Berklee that is unique to our campus, the first thing I thought about was individuality and my own experience with this topic. I’d never given it much thought even though it had come up in my life before; I’ve heard stories of sexual assault on college campuses but never had dealt with any situations directly. However, my two younger sisters had been on my mind a lot. They’re 13 and 12 years old. When I think about them attending college one day, I give a lot of thought to the college culture. What might happen if one of my little sisters goes to a frat party and some guy takes advantage of her, if she drinks too much for the first time and instead of her friends or a guy helping her get back to her dorm, they leave her on her own? And mostly, what if something along these lines happens to her and she hides it and carries it around as emotional baggage for the rest of her life because she thinks it’s HER fault?
During the summertime, our student government committee held discussions and conversation about this topic, asking why we’d want to pursue the initiative and why it matters to Berklee. Out of those discussions, we all agreed that Berklee is the leading college of contemporary music and sets the standard in a lot of ways (both through the people coming out of Berklee into the music business, and also because music influences a lot of people). Our college is unique and different than other colleges, so what we need to do needs to be unique and different. Not focused on WHAT it was, but WHY we were going to do it; the purpose and reasons. We didn’t view it as a project but as something important that needs to change in Berklee’s culture. Musicians are so influential. Music has the power to influence peoples’ thoughts and feelings. Because music is so influential, we believe it is our responsibility as student leaders to create a culture where musicians take a stand to influence the greater good in society and our own Berklee community.
During one of our meetings, we came up with the name “STAND” for the initiative. We liked the idea of taking a stand against something (sexual violence) but also the idea of standing FOR others, and for what you believe in and represent.
Too often in today’s culture we’re told to follow the status quo and not bring up topics that may be uncomfortable and awkward. But like I said, here at Berklee we’re about making a change, not about following the status quo.