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November 14, 2017 10:07 PM

Students React To USD Sexual Assault Town Hall

Vermillion, SD

Sexual assault allegations against two members of the University of South Dakota football team have stirred up a stronger conversation about sexual assault and how allegations are handled by the school.

On Monday night, the school held a town hall on sexual assault.

"I think it was a really good opportunity for students to voice their opinions, concerns, ask questions of the administration, I think it was definitely a necessary forum," student body president Teagan McNary said.

And it may be just the beginning. 

"I think it was a starting point for us, and I think that moving forward, we will have to continue those conversations," McNary said.

Senior Megan Street went to the forum, too.

"I was not satisfied with what I heard at all," Street said. "I thought there was a lot of question-dodging, when students were asking questions, by panelists, and I also felt like there was a disconnect between the students and the panelists."

University staff, including the dean of students and the athletic director, were part of the panel. McNary was the moderator. 

"Students are very angry with what's occurred on campus, and the university doesn't want to look bad. So, there was a lot of head-to-head with that. There was some shouting that did occur," Street said.

Street says students are upset over both the entire climate and how recent allegations were handled.

"I think it's both," Street said. "I think this most recent case is a symptom of a larger problem on campus. I feel like there is definitely a major issue on campus with sexual assault." 

USD president Jim Abbott was at the town hall Monday night, and Tuesday afternoon KELOLAND News visited with him in his office. But Abbott declined to give an interview, saying he didn't feel there was anything to add.

Dan Santella: Do you think the school has a sexual assault problem?
McNary: I feel like...[it's] kind of hard to gauge that.

McNary says that "the university can always be doing something better."

"I think that there is the issue of sexual assault on this campus, and I think it's an issue that needs to be addressed moving forward by the university," McNary said. 

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