Matthew Byers, senior editor
Nov. 12 – Staff Forum voted unanimously in favor of a resolution in support of the RISE Project at a meeting in Canon Lounge. Student Caucus passed a motion on Oct. 14 in favor of the College funding the RISE Project once its grant expires in January. Several dozen students were present at the meeting to demonstrate student support of the RISE Project and its supervisor, Kelly Kelbel.
The RISE Project began in January of 2007, when Warren Wilson College received a grant from the Department of Justice to fund the initiative for two years. As a result of federal budget cuts, the grant was not renewed for 2009. President Sandy Pfeiffer has promised to continue funding the program until the end of the spring semester.
Staff Forum does not have the authority to allocate funding to new positions, so the RISE Project’s future is still uncertain. The resolution, however, will be sent to the President’s Advisory Council (PAC). Budget decisions for the fall of 2009 will be made by Pfeiffer, Vice President of Administration and Finance Jonathan Ehrlich, and the chair of the board of trustees in the spring based on a number of factors, including campus input, student enrollment, and other funding priorities.
The RISE Project would cost the College approximately $50,000 per year, including four and a half student work contracts and Kelbel’s position, and would most likely mean a tuition increase of $52 per student.
Dean of Students Cathy Kramer, who initially applied for the grant in 2006, spoke in support of the resolution. She explained that the RISE Project provides education on safe sex, sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking, and it has provided confidential support services for students.
“When you hear that a lot of students are passionate about [the RISE Project], it’s due to a change in the climate on these issues,” Kramer said.
Kramer also said that the RISE Project is responsible for the increased number of
sexual assaults that have been reported on campus. Thirteen forcible sexual offenses were reported in 2007, compared to zero in 2006 and 2005.
Staff and faculty comments at the meeting were generally in support of the project, though some voiced concerns that Staff Forum was not the appropriate venue for this discussion. Others responded that the resolution was not to grant funding, but to recognize a student concern.
There was also discussion on possible alternatives, such as moving the RISE Crew to the counseling center.
Senior Jake Salt, a member of the RISE Crew, addressed the meeting and emphasized the need to maintain Kelbel’s position. He asked that the students assembled stand to show support for the project.
“I hope our silence speaks as loud as words,” Salt said of the crowd of students that was dispersed throughout Canon Lounge.
The lengthy discussion was called to a vote. The resolution was passed with all votes in the affirmative and eight abstentions.