Campus News Round-Up: SAAM Week One

Let’s Start with the good stuff this week:

How great is this? The USC Walkout for a Safer Campus. At least 100 USC students staged a demonstration around that disgusting frat email we were all alerted to a few weeks ago. Key to their protest was the lack of a substantive administrative response.

Hey Canadian students—I am loving SlutWalk.

If you were wondering whether or not schools were actually going to respond to the new OCR guidance, check out the speedy response from the University of Iowa. Other schools, take note!

And now, the week takes a turn for the frustrating:

Discussion and student unrest with the school’s policy continues at Reed. Reed’s policy is currently in our Campus Accountability Project Policies Database, but I would encourage Reed students to check out what is there and submit their own commentary. Just email CAP [at] safercampus [dot] org. You can even do it as part of Sexual Assault Activism Month!

Inside Higher Ed has an interesting feature this month on sexual harassment among in the philosophy department. The article well-worth a longer analysis, but the stand-out take-away for me is the lack of recourse students and faculty members are finding on campus. They are finding their own ways to respond, like shunning certain faculty members from conferences, but schools should be taking a more active response and not leaving it up to individuals on campus.

Amanda Hess continues to cover the drama unfolding at American, which continues to blow my mind. Check out this exchange between a student who had been a victim of assault and the school’s VP:

After publicly discussing her experience being sexually assaulted at American University, student Nicole Wisler confronted Hanson about why she refused to sign off on mandatory sexual assault trainings at the school. “I’ve had stops placed on my account for library fines, disciplinary things . . . and yes, it was uncomfortable, it was frustrating,” Wisler said. “I was also sexually assaulted. That was really uncomfortable.” Added Wisler: “Sacrificing the discomfort of a few students who might not complete it in the first amount of time versus the safety of 400 students seems ludicrous to me. And that’s what I can’t get past.”

“I know you know your equation doesn’t work,” Hanson replied. “But I mean, it’s an emotional thing. It gets applause. But if I sign that grant, sexual assault on this campus is not going to be ended.”

Yup, sexual assault: it’s emotional, it gets applause. Nice.

Finally, of all the terrible things I have read lately, this has got to be up there as one of the worst. At Berea College in Kentucky, last month a student filed a lawsuit against the school after being sexually assaulted by one of the school’s sociology professors. The professor had established a mentoring role of sorts, and apparently was acting as a “role model” for the student’s child. He invited the student to come study at his house, and then, according to the student, assaulted her.

The school has responded to the lawsuit with this LOVELY language: “All the injuries and damages …. were caused and brought about by her own negligence and/or intentional act which was a substantial factor in bringing about … injuries and damages.”

Yes, you got it. She was sexually assaulted because of her negligence. Because she went to the home of someone she trusted, she brought it all on herself. You’ve GOT to be kidding me.

Video Update from American University

Amanda Hess has been doing a great job of covering the activists at American University who are pushing the school to sign off on a VAWA grant that will fund the school to improve their sexual assault resources. As Selena mentioned, the grant application was being blocked because the Vice President refused to sign off on mandating prevention education for all incoming students. Today Amanda posts video of the students protesting, and their meeting with VP Hanson.

This part of Amanda’s latest post (and you can see it in the video) really struck me:

Following the protest, around 40 AU students staged a sit-in in Hanson’s office to confront her on her lack of support of sexual assault prevention. “It’s very hard to understand because it’s administrative,” Hanson told students on her refusal to sign off on the grant application. “It’s just a lot of detail and it’s not what you care about.”

I really don’t think it’s hard to understand why arranging a sexual assault prevention program that 1500 students would present an administrative challenge. I mean seriously, I’m sure it was hard enough for the student protesters to get 40 folks to their sit-in, I think they get it. But here’s the thing: they’re not saying “This is so easy, why can’t you just make it happen?” They are saying, “this might be hard to accomplish, but it’s JUST THAT IMPORTANT. It’s important to us, and it should be that important to you.” Instead of condescending to students about how they just don’t care about the details, it would be nice if Hanson recognized why there is so much emotion around this issue, or even made it clear that despite the challenges she felt like the students had reasonable demands. I just don’t get it. You have 40 young people in your office telling you they want to be EDUCATED and this is how you respond?

In the end, the school wouldn’t sign off on the grant, but students did get Hanson to sign a document stating her intention to work with students on these issues and vaguely stating that American will “Ensure that all new students are educated on sexual assault.” Amanda rightly points out that this seems impossible without making such education MANDATORY, but the students at American seem ready to keep fighting and holding their school accountable to those promises.


Quick Hit: American University administration refuses sexual assault campus grant

American University students are being given the run around by Vice President of Campus Life, Gail Hanson, as reported by Amanda Hess at TBD. Three days before the application deadline for a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to fund anti-violence campaigns, Hanson asked the student grant committee to “craft an alternate solution.”

Each year, the U.S. Department of Justice shells out $300,000 grants to help colleges and universities fund initiatives to reduce violence against women on their campuses over a three-year period. Last June, a committee of American University administrators, faculty, and students set to work on drafting an application for the grant, hoping to secure funds for a full-time victims advocate, increased training of school officials, a dedicated student group to involve men in sexual assault prevention—and a “mandatory education program for all new students.”

But Hanson’s refusal of the grant is not due to any lack of concern by the students. In fact, at the beginning of the school year, the student senate voted unanimously to make sexual assault education modules mandatory in order to register for spring classes. As a condition of the grant itself, the DoJ requires the funds be allocated to programs with a “hard mandate” in order to ensure every student be engaged with and affected by the program.

So why all the resistance from Hanson?

Since news of Hanson’s derailment of the initiative, student activists have been speaking out to convince administration to pass the grant application before tomorrow’s deadline.

In a letter published in American University campus newspaper the Eagle, Undergraduate Senator Brett Atanasio boosted the campaign. Atanasio called out the administration for enforcing mandatory alcohol awareness training, but refusing to institute similar trainings around sexual assault. “The rationale behind AlcoholEdu is that alcohol is an intractable part of college life, and because of that students must be educated in order to understand how to handle alcohol and protect themselves,” Atanasio wrote. “Unfortunately, sexual assault and rape are also a part of college life, even here at American University. If American University were to receive over $300,000 to provide help and services to victims of sexual assault and violence, it could go that much farther empowering students with the knowledge they need to understand consensual sex and ways they can protect themselves from rape.

Tomorrow at 11 a.m. AU students will stage a protest for the sexual assault prevention funds that they deserve.

College Round-Up: Today in Campus SA News

One day into Sexual Assault Awareness month and the internet is on fire with campus SA news. First of all, while not explicitly college-related, check out the President Obama’s SSAM Proclamation.

This week, a lot of attention has been given to an article posted in an American University newspaper that, among other things, that date-rape doesn’t exist and any woman who goes to a man’s room “wants sex.” To be honest, I don’t have much to add to the conversation that hasn’t been addressed elsewhere, except to say that I’ve been really impressed with the impassioned student response, and would like to remind student journalists about what it means to be a good editor. Glad to see that the editors at the Eagle are reviewing their editorial policy.

The Maryland Attorney General’s office has apparently issued the opinion that MD colleges and universities are not allowed to keep disciplinary records in cases of sexual assault private. Schools have long kept these records sealed, claiming that by making them public they would be violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. I’m interested in how this plays out; look for a longer blog post in the future, I’m definitely not comfortable with the tone the article takes regarding accessing these records once they are released.

Faculty at Gonzaga University are protesting the school’s decision not to allow a performance of the Vagina Monologues on campus as it has been deemed “is inconsistent with being Jesuit and Catholic.”  Their letter to the editor sparks a really interesting dialogue on how to discuss sex and sexual assault on a historically religious campus. Another future blog post….? Anyone want to weigh in on their experience with the issue?

There has been some excellent journalism lately about rape on campus. First check out this  great piece about how Clery numbers coming out of colleges and universities in Vermont don’t match up to the reality of sexual assault on campus. Also the Huffington Post now has a campus reporting team, and yesterday published this student-written piece on sexual assault at BU.

Too Many Survivors, Not Enough Nurses

First, unrelated to the post’s title, Amanda at The Sexist is quickly becoming one of my favorite new bloggers. Today she takes on an American University student newspaper who, while giving “advice” to freshmen about sexual experimentation, managed to (as some commenters rightly put it) “normalize sexual assault and drunk-hook ups.” The only thing more frustrating than the original piece is how unapologetic the editors are.


Onto the story at hand: In Douglas County, Kansas, a hospital has come under criticism from the county’s for sending rape survivors to out-of-town hospitals for examinations and forensic exams. Two of these survivors were local college students who were treated for injuries at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, but were then sent to Topeka for their forensic exams.

LMH employs sexual assault nurse examiners who are trained to collect evidence for “rape kits,” which prosecutors and investigators use to help solve the case. [DA] Branson claims the hospital doesn’t have enough nurses for the number of sexual assaults that occur in Douglas County.

On Sunday, there weren’t enough nurses available to treat all four rape victims who showed up at the hospital, Branson said…

“There is an incredible amount of shame and embarrassment associated with being the victim of an attack. It takes great courage for a survivor to come forward,” Branson said in the letter. “For them to suffer yet another indignity at being turned away from the emergency room is unconscionable.”

Branson is right on. To be a traumatized assault survivor who arrives at the hospital and then is shipped off to another, further away hospital for examination sounds pretty unbearable. Not to mention that “that turning people away can lead some rape victims to abandon the reporting process and that delays in examination can destroy evidence needed to hold an attacker accountable.” The article does not explain why the hospital doesn’t simply get more of their nurses trained as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE).

In June, Nora interviewed Karen Carroll, Associate Director of the Bronx Sexual Assault Response Team, and the two of them discussed the possibility of having SANEs on staff at campus health centers and the need for schools to be part of sexual assault response teams (SART). SARTs are community-based responses to assault that link up survivors’ advocates, health professionals, and law enforcenment so that when a survivor comes forward there is an established, supportive procedure in place to assist them.

Both a SANE presence on campus and a SART could help prevent situations like the one in campus. If schools and hospitals took sexual assault as seriously as they often claim to, they would take the little extra money necessary to get some folks trained and make sure that there is always a close place for a suvivor to go. Go here for more information on SANE programs and SARTs.

[Don't forget to vote for SAFER so we can continue our work fighting campus sexual assault]
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