College President: Campus Rapes Are the Students' Fault

Source: AP
Source: AP

If only college students were more "virtuous" in their approach to casual sex and drinking then we wouldn't have a sexual assault problem on campuses.

That's according to Eckerd College president Donald Eastman III. According to the Tampa Bay Times, there have been more than a dozen sex offenses on his campus since 2011. In an email to students, Eastman identified two vices in campus rape culture. The first? Drink less. The second? Avoid sex outside of commitment. 

Eastman first explained the school's new campaign "to attempt to minimize sexual harassment and assault in our community" before outlining how to do so. See the full letter below:

Dear Eckerd College students,

As you know, the College has launched an educational and awareness campaign to attempt to minimize sexual harassment and assault in our community. The goal is to raise the awareness of all community members with respect to sexual harassment and assault and to help prevent those incidents by that increased awareness.

You also know that our College is not alone in its concern about such behavior, principally among its students. And you know that these incidents are almost always preceded by consumption, often heavy consumption, of alcohol, often by everyone involved in them.

You can do your part in helping this College and this culture address this nexus of problems by doing two relatively simple things:

1. By limiting your own consumption of alcohol, and encouraging your friends to do the same. Socrates included wine at his Symposium, but he did not get drunk.

2. You can be thoughtful about the dramatic and often negative psychological effects that sexual activity without commitment can have. Virtue in the area of sexuality is its own reward, and has been held in high esteem in Western Culture for millennia because those who are virtuous are happier as well as healthier. No one's culture or character or understanding is improved by casual sex, and the physical and psychological risks to both genders are profound.

Every year at the end of the Eckerd College Commencement ceremony, I say to the graduating class, "I hope you feel not only well taught, but well loved. We will miss you." I mean every word of that. This open letter is written in that spirit – not as preachment, but with great affection and true, deep and lasting concern.

As always, I am available for your responses or a visit to my office. I wish each of you good luck in your final weeks of the semester, and a happy, healthy, virtuous 2015.

Sincerely,

Donald R. Eastman III
President

When Eastman writes, "Socrates included wine at his Symposium, but he did not get drunk," he implies that the drinking habits of classical Greek philosophers have any bearing on how colleges should respond to sexual assault. Also, he doesn't give any indication as to whether or not people had casual sex at Socrates' Symposium.

Eastman's comments come in the context of tragedy at too many other schools across the country.

A Rolling Stone investigation came down hard on the University of Virginia's inability to deal with campus rape — not a single student has ever been expelled for sexual assault in the history of the university — while protests continue at Norman High School in Oklahoma after three sexual assault victims were allegedly bullied out of school. Added to that, 55 colleges are currently under federal investigation for mishandling sexual assault cases.

As for Eckerd, an alumnus filed a petition calling for Eastman to properly address issues of harassment and sexual assault. Eastman told the Tampa Bay Times that he has heard the criticism, "Don't tell us this is the fault of the victim, don't blame sexual assault on alcohol, don't blame sexual assault on casual sex." However, he said, "they haven't told me what you really ought to blame it on."

h/t Tampa Bay Times

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Matt Connolly

Matt has written for Mother Jones, the Washington Examiner and Chicago Public Radio among many others. He's a resident of Washington, D.C., but much like Bruce Springsteen and pork roll he is a product of New Jersey.

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