In late October, students gathered in Weatherhead Hall for a discussion with Professor Tania Tetlow on Tulane’s efforts to shift the campus culture around sexual violence and substance abuse. This discussion was part of a series of “Roundtables” hosted in the Sophomore Honors Residence Hall. Weatherhead Roundtables serve as a forum for professors to present their research and for students to learn from faculty in a relatively informal space, all in the interest of fostering an intellectual community in Weatherhead and on campus. Professor Tetlow, Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff at Tulane, had specific insight into the academic research on sexual violence, as well as the university’s efforts to mitigate this violence. Her scholarly work has been on domestic violence and sexual assault, particularly as they intersect with race and gender. Her study of domestic violence catalyzed her involvement as an advocate for sexual assault victims of color both in the US and abroad. While introducing her work, she noted that academic writing is often received by a narrow audience. Her scholarship on sexual violence and the “imperfect victim” proved an exception, and was noticed by the Department of Justice, who chose her as a jury consultant to help reduce racial and gender discrimination in court.
The Honors students who pursue undergraduate research opportunities and a senior Honors Thesis on an issue or problem of interest found this an inspiring example of how our work in the classroom can translate into real-world advocacy. Sophomore Stephanie Zhao expressed that “Professor Tetlow’s research on sexual violence has created a positive change in the New Orleans community… hopefully I can use my Honors Thesis in engineering to positively impact my community too.” Professor Tetlow’s academic and advocacy work has informed her efforts to make the Tulane community a safer and more sexually equitable environment, and she has integrated this understanding of discrimination and potential reform into her courses as a Felder-Fayard Professor of Law.
The Roundtable also gave students an opportunity to discuss their experiences with sexual violence and alcohol at Tulane. Students shared their experiences with substance abuse, rape, and assault culture, and addressed the ways Tulane can improve campus policy to reduce sexual violence. Professor Tetlow has been influenced by her many roles and responsibilities – as a scholar, as a university administrator, and as an advocate. She also sought out the perspectives of the students who attended the Roundtable. Sophomore Alyssa Nielsen remarked that “Professor Tetlow was approachable and very easy to relate to, so it was easy to have an honest conversation with her about how campus culture seems to me and my friends.” Emily Hart reflected on the Roundtable: “Talking with Professor Tetlow showed how Tulane is truly trying to put together the best minds to solve these issues. We saw what a different Tulane could look like.”
Weatherhead Roundtables are open to the campus community. More information about them can be found here: https://honors.tulane.edu/content/weatherhead-hall