Walking into the athletic department, it’s hard not to notice a paper sign with a headshot of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The sign urges students to be more proactive about recycling, using Trump’s glowing comments about Emerson—calling it a “very important, great college” at a Las Vegas rally—as a motivator.
The sign is as political as the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym gets. There are no Bernie Sanders stickers on the athletic director’s door. Baseball players arrive sporting their new custom Lions caps, not donning Trump’s “Make America Great Again” headwear.
But, according to junior women’s volleyball player Elizabeth Reid, the misconception on campus is that student-athletes don’t care about the world beyond wins and losses.
“One of the biggest complaints from all athletes here is that people don’t think we stand for anything. People don’t think that we’re as politically-minded as some of the other students on campus, that we don’t stand up for what we believe in, that we don’t have causes,” Reid, a marketing communication major, said. “I finally said, ‘There’s only so much I can complain about it without choosing to do something myself.’”
Working with the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, Reid is harnessing her disdain for that narrative by implementing a workshop that focuses on relationship violence. With the help of the One Love Foundation, established in Reid’s native Virginia after the murder of a collegiate women’s lacrosse player by her boyfriend, the right side hitter is embarking on a mission to educate the entire campus.
That victim was Yeardley Love, who called the University of Virginia home. Her boyfriend, who was on the men’s lacrosse team, was convicted of second degree murder, and received a 23-year sentence. Foundation organizers, including Love’s mother, have appeared in the media and at more than 80 college campuses around the country since her death in 2010.
According to One Love’s website, the goal is to help students understand the dangers of violent relationships. To do so, Reid said, workshops are typically divided into two parts—an hour long video followed by a group discussion. Reid said the film could have originated from any campus and paints a truthful portrait of college life.
“It’s all very current and real,” Reid said. “My hope is not only that it resonates with people for that reason, but that it inspires people to look more closely at the relationships that they have and that their friends have.”
SAAC advisor Kat Egizi played lacrosse at Union College before graduating in 2012 and was actively involved in the game at the time of Love’s murder. She said her personal connection to the event as an athlete gave her a greater appreciation for Reid’s passion.
“It really rocked the lacrosse world,” Egizi said. “To see someone really want to take ownership and bring it to Emerson meant a lot to me as women’s lacrosse coach.”
Egizi said a group of 10-15 students will be trained to lead the conversations. Reid said she hopes to begin workshops with spring sports teams during the fall and said being able to have a conversation about such a topic with teammates is valuable.
“There will be someone from each team elected to become the facilitator, and that is really important and really powerful because it opens up the dialogue so much more if it’s just you and your team discussing these issues,” Reid said. “By being peer-to-peer, it really facilitates this super organic conversation that makes it more impactful.”
Reid said she expects a representative from One Love will be on hand for a smaller meeting with potential facilitators from SAAC and to explain the foundation to the athletics administration.
The council has already collaborated with Emerson’s Violence Prevention and Response team, completing an Emerson STANDS workshop. Egizi said working with VPR helped students understand how relationship violence is being treated in their own backyard.
“For us, it was a really nice place to start with the VPR representatives who really know Emerson specifically, and Emerson students, and the things that go on here,” Egizi said. “It was great to start with them so we could really understand how Emerson handles these sorts of events, and how they aim to prevent them.”
Emerson students are no strangers to the topic of relationship violence. The college was placed under federal investigation in early 2014 amid accusations of inadequate response to students’ reports of sexual assault. Reid said those incidents weren’t the single driver of her passion for One Love but did demonstrate that the problem is present across the nation.
“It made me realize that, as much as we talk about this ‘Emerson bubble’ that we’re in, and how we’re super liberal and super progressive and super advanced, that we’re not immune to these awful things happening,” Reid said. “There’s definitely room for education and educating our entire community.”