Pitt Takes Back the Night

The University of Pittsburgh’s Campus Women’s Organization (CWO) held their annual Take Back the Night march on campus Tuesday night. The event is Pitt’s largest event during Domestic Violence Awareness month, and it has been occurring on campus since the 90s. This event was truly powerful due to the recent murder of Pitt student Alina Sheykhet, who was brutally killed in her own home by an abusive ex-boyfriend. Take Back the Night marches are organized to promote action against domestic and sexual violence in all forms with the idea that women and other victims of violence should be able to reclaim the night and walk among it without fear. The marches have been taking place in over 30 countries annually since the first Take Back the Night March took place in Philadelphia in October 1975. This march was in response to the murder of Susan Alexander Speeth, a microbiologist who was stabbed to death while walking home alone at night. Pitt’s event began with a rally led by Megan Heintz, the president of the CWO. Faculty and student leaders from all over campus spoke briefly to explain why they were taking back the night. Notable organizations present included Pitt’s Her Campus chapter, the Planned Parenthood Club, the Asian Student Union, the Rainbow Alliance, and the Interfraternity Council, which is the largest all-male organization on campus. The IFC has been partnering with the CWO recently to promote an alliance between males and females and to use fraternity brothers’ privilege to take a direct stance on women’s rights. The rally was an impressive union of campus organizations as well as staff such as the Title IX Coordinator, Catherine Pope, and professors in multiple departments. Organizations got together before the event to make dozens of posters for demonstrators at the Tuesday event.

After the rally was the march, in which hundreds of students and faculty chanted through the streets of South Oakland with Pittsburgh Police escorts. The rally cumulated in front of The William Pitt Union, where the demonstrators then grouped together for a vigil, conversation, and advocacy training. I think that Chatham could learn a lot from events like these on larger campuses. Chatham has held events such as Take Back the Night and the Chatham Slutwalk in the past, the air of cooperation and alliance visible at the Pitt demonstration was something I have not seen here on our campus. The leaders of Pitt organizations were standing in solidarity and vocally demanding action by the Chancellor to do things such as a vow to uphold Title IX restrictions repealed by Betsy DeVos. This teamwork and cry for direct action were powerful and on a campus that has been harmed by sexual assault and by an administration that simply won’t do enough, this is what we need. I think we should take a page out of Pitt’s book and support group advocacy.