By Rachel Leland, Reporter
One Baylor student has had enough with what he sees as a lack of awareness about gender and racial privilege, and decided to start a social media campaign called Ask Me About Equality.
Austin Freshman Aaron Murillo-Ruiz started the campaign last month in order to bring about change not only on Baylor’s campus, but also to Waco.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of subtle gender privilege, specifically cisgender privilege. I’ve been seeing a lot of racial privilege at Baylor,” Murillo-Ruiz said. “I don’t, by any means, want to bash Baylor. I don’t want to be sexist but we are brought up in a society that is very sexist.”
As a freshman, Murillo-Ruiz was required to attend the Sexual Assault Prevention Assembly, but objected to many of the practices he witnessed while there. He was particularly frustrated with the gender separation at the assembly. Not every person identifies by binary gender code Murillo-Ruiz said.
According to Patty Crawford, Baylor’s Title IX coordinator, the event was divided by gender for two reasons, primarily that Waco Hall cannot hold the entire freshman class. Also, the residence halls are not co-ed and organizers found it easiest to divide the assemblies based on residence halls.
In 2014, The Department of Education issued official guidance for universities that transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX.
The speakers at the assembly talked to the girls and said “don’t get raped” but they didn’t address male victims of sexual assault Murillo-Ruiz said.
According to Crawford the content of the sessions was the same.
“The separation was not content-driven, but more logistics for planning purposes,” Crawford said.
The Title IX office said it welcomed suggestions for next year’s planning and that student voices are a key to Title IX’s success.
“I was so fed up with all the privilege that I threw a Hail-Mary on the Class of 2019 Facebook page,” Murillo-Ruiz said.
The message stated that educators need to give a more realistic portrayal of sexual harassment that considers all genders and identities.
“Society doesn’t accept transgender people, asexual people and genderfluid people so they are not recognized by society, and become victims of mental harassment,” Murillo-Ruiz said.
At first, Murillo-Ruiz’s post got plenty of support. Then the criticism came.
“One commenter said ‘This is a Christian school and we don’t like it, so get out,’” Murillo-Ruiz said.
“People were posting pictures of wrestlers,” Murillo-Ruiz said, noting his frustration at the lack of seriousness with which his post was received.
Eventually the thread got so out of hand that the moderator deleted it, but Murillo-Ruiz said he became more inspired to see what he said was positive change. However, he said he was unsure about how to execute his plan.
He made a GroupMe and the ideas came flowing in.
“I just hadn’t thought about making an actual group. A lot of this project that is happening now is because people have been coming to me with these great ideas,” Murillo-Ruiz said. “They suggested that I start a social media campaign.”
In addition to weekly meetings on Thursdays and Fridays, the group plans to hold a demonstration on November 21 at Heritage Square to protest and raise awareness for racial and gender equality.
Different members will speak about specific racial and gender issues that pertain to them in a forum-like environment.
Shreveport, La., freshman, and Ask Me About Equality organizer, Sara Beth Burch said she plans to speak about realistic portrayals of relationships, violence and harassment.
“Others are speaking on racial privilege, economic privilege, gender privilege, pay gap, accommodation of LGBT+ individuals and affirmative action,” Burch said.
Burch said she has been with the group since the beginning when it went by its original name Reproductive Education. The name was changed when the message broadened to include racial, gender and LGBT+ equality issues.
“I was interested in working with Aaron when he told me he would put his complaints to action,” Burch said.
Murrilo-Ruiz says he hopes to reach out to people at The Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market and expects to receive positive feedback from the market-goers.
“We are not there to cause a ruckus we are just peacefully demonstrating,” Murillo-Ruiz said.
Tomorrow, the group plans to meet at Common Grounds at 6 p.m. to discuss their future endeavors.
Although the group is not currently recognized by Baylor, Ask Me About Equality hopes to gather support from interested Baylor faculty members.