Meet AS President Brooke Kopel: Girl Boss Working To Empower & Educate About Sexual Assault

Brooke Kopel is a senior at UCSB and the first female Associated Students (AS) president in four years. In addition to her other presidency goals, including food security and stopping tuition hikes, she is determined to make sexual assault prevention and awareness on campus her #1 priority. 

As a feminist and sexual assault survivor, Brooke feels passionately about creating a culture of consent in which students feel heard and supported. She has been working closely with UCSB administration and Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA), a subcommittee of AS, to educate students, implement resources for survival and prevention, and save Title IX policies. 

She is determined to show students that she and AS are sources of support and advocacy. "I'm taking it upon myself to be present and active in these spaces so that survivors or people involved know that I'm here...that I'm present and that I care," she said.  

Photograph courtesy of Brooke Kopel

What tangible steps and preventative measures are you taking to raise awareness and educate students about sexual assault? 

Sexual assault prevention and education is my #1 priority. I've been working closely with SASA to revitalize how we address sexual assault and provide funding for their consent campaign. SASA has put together a series of Asks to reform certain university policies. I've been working with SASA President Emily Montalvo-Telford in structuring the Asks and setting up a meeting with administration. The biggest one is reforming how CARE teaches sexual assault and Gaucho FYI...we need to stop with these euphemisms that are being used and just get down to the uncomfortable conversation because it's only going to be when we’re talking about it explicitly that change happens. 

[Spring Quarter 2018] SASA ran a survey of sexual assault experience and the results were so... disheartening. SASA is going to be doing another survey when these Asks are implemented and my office would be there. My office has a Special Projects budget and I'm separating a part of that budget for any type of sexual assault town hall, healing circle...I recently gave $400 for the Survivor Solidarity Event [healing circle for Kavanaugh results created by Senator Zion Soloman] to make sure it's as efficient and healing as it could possibly be. 

 How do you apply these formal education and prevention processes to Isla Vista hook up culture? 

We are not past the idea that Isla Vista is a party town...we see it everyday. I just want to be able to look out and see respect for women. Education is a big part of that. When you teach consent and teach sexual assault awareness, you realize that a form of sexual assault violence and aggression can be with your words, looks on your faces...those are all microaggresions that make women feel highly uncomfortable. It's important that this starts at a college age level. I do have a high hope for our generation and that people are going to be treating women better...treating them with more respect and also, believing women when things happen to them...being responsible enough to admit that there was wrong done when there shouldn't have been. I do think there's hope for that but it also comes with women taking it upon themselves. It's on our part and it's on their [society's] part. 

Now that feminism has become so prevalent in the mainstream, what does it mean to be a feminist in college and at UCSB?

I don't think there's one more right way to be a feminist than another. The way I exercise it is to be present for women…. do whatever it is to be active because strength comes in numbers. But there's also so many little ways that I think feminism is exercised. The simple reminder of saying "let her speak, don't interrupt her"...calling men out in leadership spheres- that's a big thing for me. As a female leader, being a source of encouragement for others, showing that I can do it and so can you. It's that bond, that connection between women...that's so, so important to me as being a feminist on this campus... showing that there’s a big place for women and no one should feel discouraged. I'm not using this position to just boost myself up, I really want to bring everybody else with me. Continuing that chain of empowerment... that's my biggest thing.

What do you envision for yourself and for the future of UCSB? 

I plan on going to law school and getting into civil rights and the public interest law field. I want to fight for women. I want to fight for women who experience sexism in the workplace, reform the legal system to make sure that women's voices are being heard... continue advocating for other women. 

20 years from now if I come back for alumni weekend or have a kid going here, my hope is that there are so many more women in student government- in activist spaces fighting for the same things we're fighting for today but also, not having to fight as hard. I hope that the work we're doing now... all the tireless work that women do every day on this campus is making change. If my daughter is at this campus and going out in IV on a Friday night, that she can feel comfortable walking down DP without being catcalled, looked at with scrutiny, or be felt up at a party against her will...without that fear of walking home alone late at night because she could be taken advantage of.

That all comes with education and consent and I hope that by then, consent will not be a new term that people are only learning when they come to college. I hope that all the work we're doing now is going to make a difference and I know it will because none of this work is for nothing...every voice, every action is doing something that wasn't there before.  

For updates on what Brooke and AS are doing to educate and empower students, check out the AS Facebook page!