Date of story:
Wednesday, January 14, 2015 - 10:15am
I am April Few-Demo, a faculty member in the Department of Human Development at Virginia Tech. At the time that I was handed this wristband by a kind student, I had been teaching the largest course section of Human Sexuality at Virginia Tech for years. I was given Wristband 86864 at the end of a regular class section by a young woman whom I believe had not spoken up in class. I believe this exchange was the first time we had had a conversation. It was wonderful. It was humbling. And it filled my heart with gladness. I was given this wristband because she noticed how important it is to me to create a safe and inclusive learning environment for my students. I have students of all genders, sexes, sexual orientations, and sexual attractions. I have students who are still questioning who they are as sexual ... or asexual ... human beings. I have students who know that they have been violated or assaulted and those who name their experience(s) while learning about sexual coercion and relational power in class. At the beginning of every semester, I remind students to be compassionate before they speak: "You need to be thoughtful. You need to be kind. Why? You never know what the person beside you has experienced or is experiencing right now. Act and be whom you say you are and aspire to be." I encourage students to be authentic. In a class that is so personal and where vulnerability exists, I try to cultivate safety as a value and as a shared responsibility. Civil discourse is a necessity when exploring difference and sameness.