Lighting the smokestack teal

S.A.A.M takes place on Tarleton campus


As many of us know, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (S.A.A.M.). For those who were unaware, the teal covering campus is a clear indicator.

Many people on the Tarleton state campuses are working day and night to educate faculty and staff on what S.A.A.M. is and ways you can help, S.A.A.M. has been around for many years. 

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (S.A.A.M.) traces its history to the 1970s as momentum built to spread awareness of this particular form of violence and to ultimately work toward preventing it. There is a great statement on the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website regarding the history of S.A.A.M.: ‘It’s impossible to prevent an issue no one knows about, and it’s difficult to make people aware of a problem without providing a solution,’” Caris Thetford, director of Student Counseling Services said. 

The hard word and dedication that has been put into the prevention events has been on our campuses for quite some time. As a university, it is most important that events like these are put on by the people who truly want to see a difference. 

“On Tarleton’s campus, violence prevention and response efforts have been in place for some time, but were largely implemented and overseen by professionals in Student Counseling Services on top of their clinical responsibilities. The first dedicated, prevention-focused position was created in 2015 to oversee substance abuse and violence prevention efforts (me!) with the support of two graduate assistant positions. I was working in Career Services at the time, but transitioned to this new role in the middle of April, 2015,” Thetford explained. 

The work that these students and faculty members do to make our campus safe during months like these is inspiring. The processes they take, the people they talk to, the students that they engage with, and so on. Without them, many would not know what these prevention months are, what to do, who to talk to, or anything along those lines. This staff becomes a lifeline. 

“There was tremendous interest in and support of efforts to educate our campus community about sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and stalking; to teach bystander intervention skills to help our community disrupt problematic behavior; and to work toward building a healthy campus culture that doesn’t allow for these forms of violence. There were campus-wide efforts to turn campus teal each April. We passed out t-shirts, asked our community to sign pledges about healthy relationships and plastered those signed pledges all over campus, put up yard signs and banners, and much more. Students designed our marketing materials. A graduate student in our office came up with the idea for Teal Tuesdays, and our students took it and ran with it. Staff in the library and rec hung up visual displays in their buildings. Faculty members brought their classes to events and incorporated prevention-related topics in their classes. Various athletic teams helped us with our events and attended different training opportunities in large numbers,” Thetford explained. “Our student Criminal Justice, Social Work, and Public Health organizations organized and staffed events, attended training, and shared information through their social media accounts. One staff member hosted an online shop for a couple of years, where faculty and staff could purchase teal attire branded with the Tarleton logo. I still see those shirts on campus in April. There are probably things I’m forgetting, but it has been inspiring to see how our community has embraced this difficult but important topic in ways big and small, and how they’ve taken to heart the charge to keep our campus safe.”

While Thetford and her team did an amazing job at informing the campus of what it means to support prevention events and how to take action, the duties have recently been shifted to the Dean of Student Administrative Office. 

“A lot has changed on our campus since 2015, a lot has changed even in just the last couple of years, including realigning positions and responsibilities. As part of those efforts, prevention efforts moved from Counseling Services to the Dean of Students Administrative Office. The wonderful folks in that office have planned a very full month of activities for S.A.A.M.,” Thetford said.

Although the workload has been shifted, counseling services have not given it up completely. They are going to continue to attend events and be a shoulder for the students who need it.

“Counseling Services is still involved, in fact, we’re hosting three bystander training this month to support efforts to continue working toward a safe and healthy community. We’re wearing our teal on Tuesdays, promoting the month’s events, and showing up to as many events as we can. This is a tremendously important topic. There are lots of ways to get involved, big and small, in-person and virtual. There is nothing more important than safety, and we can’t have a safe community if we’re silent and uninformed. Take an active role: Read about this topic. Learn how to be a proactive bystander to keep the people around you safe. Support survivors. Share information and resources. Commit to being a healthy and safe person in your relationships,” Thetford concluded.

The new staff over the prevention events are Margaret (Margo) Tippie and Kelley Beeler. These two students have taken on a great workload with much expectation and have done a tremendous job.  

“We are like the event planners. How our roles are, not just for sexual assault, like I am a programming prevention GA (graduate assistant) and she’s [Kellley Beeler] a student intern for prevention programming, so we handle all the events for S.A.A.M., hazing, drug and alcohol, domestic violence, partner violence, and mental health,” Tippie explained. “We are not experts in the field at all. We do not know the things that they do behind closed doors, like we don’t have access to cases or anything, were just the people who make the events for the student body so that they are more educated in what they are doing.” 

What Tippie and Beeler do for our campus is held with very high importance. Topics like these are very significant and they bring them to our eyes in a friendly, educative way. 

“It’s so important. And, all the topics that we handle are kind of taboo for society to talk about and we really want to make it to where- these are heavy topics/triggering topics and people don’t want to talk about them or people really do want to voice about them and we want to be able to bring the people who want to voice this stuff events to where they feel like they’re being heard. We also want to make it a safe place where if it’s taboo for you to talk about or you have history with these topics, we also want to make it a safe place and we can’t do that alone,” Tippie explained.    

Tippie and Beeler were sure to mention the people that have helped them through this long, wonderful process. 

“We partner with counseling, so counselors are always present at our events because of the topics that we are handling. I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what’s going on. I can talk to you about American politics and where it came from, but I don’t know how to handle this. So, this is where I struggle because you want it to be fun and engaging, but you also want it to be an educational takeaway,” Tippie and Beeler explained. One of our events is painting, we are partnering with T.A.B., and so T.A.B. supplies the succulents for free and we provide the pots. So, yes you get a free pot and it’s fun to paint them, but we’re telling them while they’re coming to the table that painting is a therapy tool for people who have experienced sexual assault and other things.”

While the faces of S.A.A.M. understand how delicate a topic like this can be, they are doing their best to ensure that the students feel as if they are welcome and a part of what the team is doing.

“We are really trying to make it where students want to be a part of this. They want to learn. For the stickers and buttons this year, we opened it up as a design contest so all of our stickers were designed by a student and all of our buttons were designed by a student, so the students want to wear them,” Tippie explained.

As a student herself, Beeler joined the prevention team to share what she believes is not shared enough. She believes the main goal is to help, even if it is just one person. 

“I think on my side, as I am a criminal justice major and I am about to start my masters in criminal justice, I sit there every day and you get told all these statistics and what it looks like on a college campus and the one in five college students and it’s like, okay then why don’t more students know that? I shouldn’t be the only one in my classes that’s being told this, this should be a well-known thing. So, I joined the prevention team with Margo mid-week during all hazing and then from there we got to start planning all of this and it’s been such an exciting time because you get to plan all these events and even if you are only helping one person- going through my own personal experiences with it, I want to be able to help even one person,” Beeler explained. 

To end this month of meaningful events put on by all the wonderful staff, we can look forward to the smokestack being lit teal by the Dean of Students Office. The date was postponed and will now take place on April 30 at Heritage park. It will begin at 8 p.m.

“Our event got postponed due to the weather. It was supposed to be April 2 as a kickoff. Now we’re looking at pushing it toward more of the end of the month… We still wanted to book something and we think that instead of just throwing it into the middle of the month as a random event, we would rather have another ceremony type thing,” Tippie concluded.

The JTAC would like to thank everyone who has put hard work and dedication into S.A.A.M. Make sure to attend the lighting of the smokestack on April 30 to be an active supporter of S.A.A.M. and all of the work that has been put into this month of events.