Bedsheet Project provokes sexual violence dialogue


Josh Axelrod | Senior Staff Photographer

Students will have the option to paint and decorate bedsheets at various spots across campus to express their thoughts and feelings about sexual violence.

Next week, students from every sphere of Tulane will be invited to participate in the Bedsheet Project, an initiative to start dialogue surrounding sexual violence on campus.

The Bedsheet Project will allow students to write on, or even cut, bedsheets with any comments, questions or feelings about sexual violence on campus. The first opportunity to take part will be at Crawfest on Saturday, then at various locations on Tulane’s campus throughout the following week, including the Boot Bar & Grill’s Happy Hour next Wednesday.

Next Friday, the bedsheets will be hung up around campus.

The initiative is spearheaded by the Project IX Dialogue Team. Project IX is a team of students creating initiatives to prevent sexual violence in the Tulane community. The project is split up into four teams: education, justice, community and dialogue, with the dialogue team aiming to get students thinking and talking about what consent looks like and how to build a safer community.

While the other teams are coming up with several solutions to lower the high rates of sexual violence on campus that will be presented to the administration, the dialogue team has been working on one project to present to the student body itself: the Bedsheet Project.

According to senior Monica Schwingshakl, a member of the dialogue team, the project development started with a lot of brainstorming.

“We put up all of these post-it notes with all of our questions and collected them,” Schwingshakl said. “From that we got themes of where we would want to go with creating a dialogue, which is in the form of some sort of presentation, or disruption, or art piece or something. Obviously one of the ones that came up the most was how do you define consent? How do you educate people about consent? What can the Tulane community actually do?”

According to team members, the symbolism behind the bedsheets is what makes the project so powerful.

“It’s powerful being the site where assault and rape and violence occurs and also where people dream,” Riley Teahan, Project IX dialogue team coordinator, said. “I like that, the dual meaning of the bedsheet.”

Annika Schneider, design thinking student fellow for the Taylor Center, agreed, saying it was like gaining ownership over the bedsheet. Schneider also added that having these bedsheets available throughout campus unexpectedly would have more of an impact on students.

“We talked about having different scales to work with, and one of them being getting people talking about something,” Schneider said. “That is why we are working to almost block people’s normal paths in a way that really gets their attention. That is why we chose something that is larger in scale and not an everyday occurrence at Tulane.”

In addition to allowing every student to participate at random, clubs can also have their own separate bedsheet to edit themselves.

Groups on campus and people who typically would not find themselves involved in this kind of activism will now have the opportunity to channel their personal feelings and voice.

“Its so deeply personal there is not a single answer,” Teahan said.

Though the team of many different students have put their heads together all semester to plan this, it is only a start to the discussions and actions that need to take place on campus, according to Mayaba Liebenthal, Project IX dialogue team facilitator.

“We hope that this is the first iteration of something that happens over the course of years because this can’t be solved in a semester, this can’t be solved in a year, this is huge, and the work has to keep going,” Liebenthal said.

Editing a bedsheet is not the only way to get involved. Teahan said she hopes these types of initiatives will continue into the future.

“This is the outcome of this semester and I think we hope that it inspires more people to join the dialogue team and join Project IX and empower students in general to take action,” Teahan said. “The kind of culture shift that needs to happen, it requires work on everyone’s behalf.”

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