Chancellor's Comments at the 25th Annual Walk for Awareness

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Good Evening. Thank you for the opportunity to share a few thoughts on this important occasion. Tonight we remember and honor those whose lives have been forever changed by interpersonal violence. We stand together here in the darkness to shine a bright and revealing light on this troubling blight on society and, sadly, our community.

Tonight we will walk in silence. This is not an empty silence; rather, it is full of healing, respect, compassion, resolve and unity. I join with you in using the powerful voice found in our silence. Our walk tonight is a time for silence. It is a time for reflecting. It is a time for coming together as a community to fill the too often silent void around this heart-wrenching issue with acknowledgment and support. Tonight we find strength in the silence, but tomorrow I charge us all to find strength in our voice.

Tomorrow, and throughout this academic year, I ask you to join me in sending a loud and clear message that those who perpetrate shameful acts of violence are not welcome in our community. We will not be bystanders; rather, we will stand up to ensure our safety and the safety of those around us.

For many years, we have done an excellent job of focusing on an individual’s responsibility for her or his own safety. Certainly, we all have a role to play in our own well-being. That cannot be denied. However, we need to shift the conversation, and the burden, of responsibility to the offenders. A difficult, but important, fact is that it is more likely to suffer interpersonal violence at the hands of someone we know than from the often talked about stranger. Tonight, tomorrow and beyond, those who are not willing to live by a code of mutual consent, respect and concern must hear the message they are not welcome in the community of Mountaineers.

Education is a critical component of our responsibility to create a safe and healthy community. This semester many of the people who work at Appalachian have committed to participating in an interpersonal violence education program. I am proud of this commitment and ask our students to join us by participating in the Haven online training program designed for students. Through education, we will learn important information about our own safety but, just as critical, we will learn how to be an engaged community.

It is time to stop standing by and to stand up. It is time to embody the “It’s Up To Me” campaign every day. Whether it is a dangerous situation that could lead to interpersonal violence or a problem with drugs or alcohol, oftentimes someone sees something and that has to translate into saying something. Issues such as depression can also be recognized early when we take the time to really listen. It is important for you to remember that you are not alone. There are many dedicated people and excellent resources on our campus. The only thing you have to be an expert in is being a concerned human being and member of this community.

I thank you for your commitment to a safe and healthy Appalachian for all.