TEDxAmherst: Taking Back the Campus


Sophia Lauer

Kelsey Nass giving her TED talk at the TEDxAmherst conference.

On Saturday April 7th, the Chieftain Press attended the TEDxAmherst TED Conference. The theme of the day was “Solve for Y”, a 3 part event with different talks in each. Y= Change, Y= Discover, and Y= Perspective.

One of the most impactful talks was given by UMass Amherst sophomore, Kelsey Nass, who told the story of her rape.

In her freshman year Nass was raped by another student on campus. She went to a party, wearing a dress she “felt comfortable in”, then blacked out and woke up the next morning in a different place wearing someone else’s clothes, with no memory of the night before.

At first, she chalked it up to “just a bad hookup” because, as she opened with, rape is a scary word that makes people uncomfortable. But after she reflected, she was able to give a name to what happened. It started as “sexual assault” and gradually lead up to saying the words “I was raped.”

Her talk was during the Y= Change portion of the Ted event, and she focused on labels and the damage they put onto the victim.

She said that words such as victim take away from who she is as a person, making her less of a person and more of a statistic.

Nass also talked about how when she tried to talk to the administration at UMass she was seen as nothing more than a liability, a bad story that the school didn’t want out.

Nass concluded with the label “survivor”. Nass spoke about the fact that other people don’t get to decide who she is. She explained that obviously she did survive, she wouldn’t be giving the talk of she didn’t, but it’s a label that she didn’t give herself.

On the note of labels, Nass said that in this situation there is only one person who needs a label, and “that’s the rapist.” Explaining that we as a society need to stop dehumanizing the people raped, and instead take away the identities of the rapists.

While the talk was informative and gave Nass a platform to talk about and address rape culture, it was more impactful given the fact that she gave the talk on the campus her rape happened on.

While talking about her rape to an auditorium of hundreds of people; add in the fact that the talk is being recorded to go on Youtube where it will be streamed my millions of people, and that makes nerves worse. But then on top of all that, she is giving the talk at the campus where she was raped, and telling the story of a school administration that gave her the label of “liability” in the school they oversee. It’s empowering. 

Talking to a group of women, one of whom was a survivor herself, during the networking portion of the TED conference, raised similar points. They explained how impressed and awed they were by Nass taking back her labels and campus by telling her entire story to the world where she can’t be called a liability anymore. 

If you are interested in seeing Kelsey Nass’ TED talk, it, and all the others recorded at TEDxAmherst will be uploaded to the TEDx Youtube channel in around a month.