BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- It's on us.
All of us.
To stop sexual assault.
These powerful words have been uttered by student-athletes across the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) as part of an important campaign to improve safety and student well-being across all 13 campuses. The MIAC has officially joined a nationwide movement - the "It's On Us" campaign - to address and combat a growing problem - sexual assault on college campuses.
"Sexual assault is a serious problems on college campuses across the country," said MIAC Executive Director Dan McKane. "When we were approached with the idea of adopting an It's On Us campaign at the conference level, it stood out as an extremely timely and worthy cause to help us make a difference at our institutions. We're proud to roll out the campaign and encourage the MIAC community to join us in standing up to sexual assault."
The It's On Us campaign started at the top ... literally. It was launched in Sept. 2014 by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to raise awareness about the prevention of sexual assault on college campuses. According to the campaign's literature, it "recognizes that the solution to sexual assault begins with [each individual], and seeks to reframe the conversation around the issue so that everyone sees it as his or her responsibility to do something to prevent it."
Last spring, McKane and the MIAC staff pitched the idea of an It's On Us campaign at the conference level to the league's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and governance structure, which includes athletic directors, faculty athletic representatives and the MIAC Presidents' Council. Many MIAC schools had already adopted It's On Us or similar initiatives such as the Green Dot program on their campuses, and were quick to support a conference-wide campaign.
"The MIAC Presidents' Council is glad to see the conference and its membership working together to implement the It's On Us campaign," said Saint Mary's University President Br. William Mann, who is also serves as chair of the MIAC Presidents' Council. "Our student-athletes are extremely visible on campus and possess tremendous leadership qualities, which makes them excellent agents for positive change. Their efforts with this initiative will be a great step toward eradicating sexual assault on campus."
The MIAC officially launched the conference's It's On Us Campaign on Oct. 16, 2015, with a home page filled with information and resources as well as a video starring MIAC student-athletes from all 13 schools, reading the It's On Us pledge to help put the conference's united voice firmly behind the initiative. The conference also has a public address announcement to be read at athletic events and will work with MIAC SAAC and administrators on additional ways to advance the It's On Us campaign.
Since the launch of the It's On Us campaign a little over a year ago, it has made a serious and tangible impact. Student-led campaigns have been initiated at more than 300 colleges and universities, and the campaign has more than 90 partners including media, sports leagues and conferences. More than 650 It's On Us-related events have been held on campuses, and more than 200,000 people have the It's On Us pledge online. The popular It's On Us videos have been viewed more than 10 million times on YouTube.
One of the first official partners of the It's On Us campaign was the NCAA, who began introducing its membership and student-athletes to the campaign last year. One of the student-athletes that received the message was Domenic Fraboni, who graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., in May. Fraboni - who was a fullback and one of the Cobber football team's captains during his career as a student-athlete - learned about It's On Us as the MIAC and Upper Midwest Athletic Conference's representative on the NCAA Division III National SAAC, and the campaign's message and mission really hit home.
"The first time I heard about the campaign was our November (2014) NCAA SAAC meeting," Fraboni said. "They gave us some great tools and information. It really resonated with me as a student-athlete, and I felt like working to get other student-athletes on-board was a great way to spread the message that sexual assault isn't OK ... I wanted to make Concordia a safer place."
Fraboni's efforts were met with optimism and outstanding success on the Concordia campus. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, as he was asked to join a cross-campus student working group that aimed to integrate all the various facets of life at Concordia. That group embraced Fraboni's It's On Us ideas, and the campaign resulted in a video, t-shirts, a successful pledge drive, and a bystander training session on campus.
"We started from an athletics perspective, but we realized the more people that jump on the bandwagon, the harder and further it's going to roll," Fraboni said. "It's important to start with athletics, but it was great to spread it to the other groups on campus. It was instantly a success ... It's something everyone agrees with and people are passionate about. Integrating staff, students and administration was the best way to do it.
Once the campaign was up and running at Concordia, Fraboni set his sights a little higher. He met with MIAC staff and presented his ideas to take It's On Us to the next level. He proposed the campaign to MIAC administrators at their NCAA Convention meeting in Washington, D.C., in January, and he also shared the concept with MIAC SAAC. When the conference's governance re-visited the topic at its spring meetings, the response was a resounding," Yes," for the MIAC to move forward with It's On Us.
In addition to the video and web page, the MIAC is asking its fans, student-athletes, coaches and administrators to join the campaign and take the pledge to stand up to sexual assault. The conference distributed T-shirts with a personalized It's On Us MIAC logo to each school at its September SAAC meeting, and it will use the power of social media to spread the logo and the message to the MIAC community.
"We've got an incredible community of student-athletes, alumni and fans in the MIAC," said McKane, "and we're encouraging everyone to join us in the It's On Us campaign to stand up against sexual assault on campuses. Please watch our video and hear our student-athletes' message. Take the pledge. Join us in becoming part of the solution to a problem that needs our attention."
Though Fraboni graduated from Concordia in May and is currently continuing his education at the Mayo School of Health Sciences in Rochester, Minn., his work with SAAC and It's On Us is far from over. NCAA SAAC reps are permitted to serve an additional year following graduation, and this year Fraboni is the vice chair of Division III SAAC. Now that the MIAC has taken up the cause, he's working diligently through his role with National SAAC to spread the message even further.
"I'm chairing a sub-committee and working group that is writing up a best practices document, a script for a video and a memo to send to all the NCAA's member institutions," Fraboni said. "We're going to roll it out at [the NCAA] Convention [in January]. The MIAC is ahead of the game a little, but hopefully all the other member institutions and conferences will get it rolling this spring. Once we get everyone excited and spread the word, it's really going to take off."
For those looking to make an immediate impact, Fraboni said the first thing people can do is recognize the problem and become comfortable addressing such a difficult topic. He said it's important for people to be aware of the resources available to help, and to learn ways where recognition and intervention in situations where sexual assault could occur can make a huge difference.
"People can't cringe when they hear sexual assault or rape," Fraboni said. "It's a real issue and it's happening on our campuses. Learn about the resources that are available such as counseling and crisis centers.
"Education is important - teaching people how to intervene in those instances when they can be effective. Intervene if your friend is pushing the envelope at a party or in a relationship. It's OK to say, 'This isn't right,' and pull someone out of those situations. Don't be a bystander to the problem."
The reason the NCAA, the MIAC and so many conferences and athletic departments are getting involved and taking up the cause is student-athletes have never been more visible. Often times, they're the face of an entire institution, and a connection to both the public and alumni. They're in the position to make a difference, so it only makes sense to equip them with the tools to have a significant, positive impact on their campuses. Fraboni's efforts on the Concordia campus and throughout the MIAC are proof that one person truly can make a difference, and if more student-athletes follow in his footsteps there's no telling how great the impact could be.
"As student-athletes, we have a great platform to spread this message," Fraboni said. "Don't be a bystander to the problem, be a part of the solution."
The It's On Us campaign grew by one conference and 13 schools Friday, as the MIAC and its members strive to be a part of that solution. The words of the conference's student-athletes simultaneously echo the weight and severity of the issue and, while reflecting the steeled determination to make a difference and rise up against a problem that needs to be eradicated.
"It's on us.
All of us.
To stop sexual assault."