As Duke’s sexual assault policies continue to be revised, a student-run campaign is encouraging community action across campus.

The #WeAreHereDuke campaign—run by students and faculty of a theater studies course titled "Telling Stories for Social Change: Confronting Sexual and Domestic Violence at Duke and in Durham"—is an outgrowth of the class’s attempt to create dialogue and spark community action. Through social media and public policy efforts, the course aims to change the cultures that promote sexual violence.

“The social media campaign is to say we are here for survivors, as survivors—we have visibility on campus,” said Madeleine Lambert, co-instructor of the course. “We are here to talk, we are here as advocates, we are here to listen and we are here to make change."

The class recently submitted policy recommendations to the Gender Violence Task Force and held a public performance Wednesday night—bringing together personal narratives from interviews with survivors of sexual assault, social workers and activists.

The course is one of several student-led initiatives aiming to increase awareness of sexual assault and transparency regarding Duke's policies on the topic.

Senior Ashley Pollard, a survivor of sexual assault, founded the organization Duke Support to offer guidance to other survivors. Pollard said she was deeply frustrated when her perpetrator received no sanctions after she brought her case forward to the Office of Student Conduct. The incident, she said, enabled her to reach out to other survivors on campus and create a network to broaden the dialogue.

Pollard said that activism became part of Duke Support's agenda after she met Lambert, who sought members of the organization to inform her class’s policy decisions. Despite representation from the student perspective, there are still barriers to being heard, she said.

“I think a challenge is the bureaucracy of it all,” Pollard said. “The policy changes come with a lot of time, deliberation and input from a lot of different people. At the same time we’re trying to lift these [proactive] voices, there are still people saying we should push back or think logically.”

The #WeAreHereDuke campaign, Lambert said, is about creating a space on campus where peoples’ voices can be heard—as survivors and as advocates, with men included.

“Women have obviously been leading this charge for forever and will continue to do it, but we need men to get involved,” Lambert said. “The hashtag is also for men to stand up, take action and effect change.”

The class's performance Wednesday night—which conveyed to a full Sheafer Theater the powerful and haunting effects of sexual violence—included narratives from both women and men.

“We are not bad men, so therefore we are good men,” sophomore Andrew Tan-Delli Cicchi said in his monologue. “We are as useless as we are benign.”

The policy recommendations—which Lambert's class presented to the Task Force Wednesday—contain data and input from Duke victim-survivors, Duke Student Government, the Women’s Center, the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity and Duke Support. The recommendations include offering students the option to see a female dean or administrator, barring offenders from pursuing certain campus leadership positions and making the definition of sexual violence more inclusive for non-heterosexual or cisgendered orientations and relationships.

“There are already a lot of reasons why someone doesn't report, so it’s about making the process more in tune with someone who's coming forward,” Lambert said, noting that changes can be made down to the room where student conduct hearings take place—with the possibility of making the partition that separates the accused and the accuser completely opaque. “Even something that small can make a difference.”

Pollard added that in her own experience, it was traumatic to be able to see the outline of the hands and feet of her perpetrator.

Duke's policies and practices have undergone several significant changes over the past few years. In 2012, the statute of limitations for reporting sexual misconduct was repealed—allowing individuals to file reports against a student until he or she graduates. In 2013, Duke changed the recommended disciplinary sanction for sexual assault to expulsion. Several changes were made to policy this past summer, including expanding the application of sexual misconduct policy to include graduate and professional students, as well as undergraduates. The definition of sexual misconduct was also refined to better comply with Title IX, and a new website presents policy definitions, sample cases and resources for students. Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, previously told The Chronicle that this summer's changes are aimed at creating conditions in which students have enough trust in the system to bring their cases forward.

Pollard further emphasized the need for information to be provided in a clear and succinct manner, perhaps most notably to incoming freshman. She noted that DSG is currently working on a fact sheet on the sexual misconduct policy, which will provide information to students in a more salient way.

“There is a clear miscommunication [between] what students know about the misconduct policy and what the administration wants students to know,” Pollard said. “People need to be educated about the facts, about what actually happens when you report. There should be upfront information.”

Lambert added that Duke, and specifically the Gender Violence Task Force, has been incredibly supportive of and receptive to her class’s work.

“We’re all trying to do the same thing,” Lambert said. “We’re all trying to make this better, to say we’re here, we are Duke and we are trying to move forward with this.”

Partnerships are key, Pollard said, adding that collaboration between different student groups allows their input to make more of an impact.

“I think when policies are simply provided by the administration, it just seems very distant,” Pollard said. “If students bring forth changes and issues they see, other students will listen to them.”

Colleges and universities across the nation have been heavily focused on addressing issues of sexual misconduct, especially as the federal government gets more involved in holding schools accountable for responsiveness to these issues, Stephanie Helms Pickett, director of the Women’s Center wrote in an email Wednesday. She added that the Center has noticed an increase in students wanting to get involved.

“Our student interns and apprentices impact change regularly,” she said, emphasizing the Develle Dish network and programs such as PACT training.

The Women's Center will soon be hiring a full time staff member to focus solely on educational initiatives, which will "undoubtedly positively impact" campus culture, she added.

Lynden Harris, co-instructor with Lambert of the theater studies course, added that the although class will not be taught next semester, it will hopefully continue in the years to come.

“We’d like to teach this course until there’s no reason to teach it anymore,” she said.