Institutions of higher learning across the county must take an intentional and proactive approach in preventing and responding to reports of sexual assault made on campus.
Universities across the country are still uncomfortably & awkwardly handling cases of sexual assault on campus. In the most recent story that has garnered national attention, The University of North Carolina is being investigated by the Federal Government on charges that they mishandled the reporting of several sexual assaults. According to a recent article in Diverse Issues In Higher Education,
The U.S. Department of Education will investigate a complaint filed by five women about how the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill handles sexual assault cases, according to a letter released by the women Wednesday.
The department’s Office for Civil Rights said in a March 1 letter that it has opened an investigation because it’s determined that the office has jurisdiction and the complaint was filed in a timely manner. The letter advises that the investigation is not an indication that the OCR has determined the complaint has merit.
The letter said the complaint alleges four violations by the university, including that it didn’t respond appropriately to concerns about sexual assault and didn’t provide impartial investigations of sexual assault.
The complaint was brought by three students, a former student and a former assistant dean of students, all women, in January.
In short, institutions of higher learning across the county must take an intentional and proactive approach in preventing and responding to reports of sexual assault made on campus. Too often, in an effort to protect the school brand, administrators sweep reports under the rug and handle them with a steel code of silence. Understanding that universities must protect the rights of the victims, the perception can often be that universities are also protecting the offender. As a former Associate Dean of Students at a small, private liberal arts college, no situation is ever as cut and dry as it may appear—however, because of bureaucratic and political pressures from university and community stakeholders; including parents, university and local police, coaches, and other universities administrators, victims of sexual assault oftentimes wait weeks or months to see a culminating response from the university.
This must stop!
While every situation is different, universities must streamline their response to victims of sexual assault and respond swiftly and confidently to both victim and victimizer, and the impacted community of campus residents. No longer can campus educators protect the victimizer and take their time responding to the victim. Campuses are full aware of the culture of violence against women—especially from various popular pockets of the campus community. It’s time to practice student, staff, and community accountability.