Colleges Should Treat Sexual Assault and Hate Crimes Equally

The U.S. has achieved worldwide recognition for its higher learning institutions, which are both quintessentially American and attractive to international students. However, little attention has been paid to campus security and gender discrimination at American colleges until Yale University, the venerated bastion of higher education, was embroiled in a Title IX complaint filed earlier this year.

This suit proves that sexual harassment, assault, and rape are widespread, even on the most prestigious campuses, because of a misogynistic culture that most administrations have not challenged. The adage “actions speak louder than words” should echo throughout Yale’s halls; condemning sexual harassment in the strongest terms is no longer enough. All universities should have a zero-tolerance policy for assault and rape, one that mirrors strict hate crime legislation to show their students they are serious about safety. 

In the Yale Title IX suit, the complainants allege that the university allows a hostile gender environment to thrive, one that “precludes women from having the same equal opportunity to the Yale education as their male counterparts.” According to the 16 students who filed the complaint, the university turned a blind eye when students distributed a “Preseason Scouting Report” that ranked incoming freshman girls and identified them by hometown and dorm room. The students also allege that Yale overlooked fraternity pledges’ denigrating chanting and failed to expel those who had committed rape. 

Change cannot come soon enough. A recent graduate of one of Yale’s peer institutions said, “Many of my close friends have had uncomfortable experiences that are borderline assault, and everyone knows at least one person with a really bad story.”

The misogynistic climate hit a new low at Dartmouth College earlier this year when the song “Out of Control” was e-mailed to the entire student body as a commentary on their campus’ environment for women, with the lyrics:

“once at a party, a nice young girl was ready to go home so a bro walked her back. 
And all of the sudden, her world went black. 
And you guessed it my friend, this frat bro attacked...
when you have that much money, there’s nothing you can’t do. 
You can rape all the poor freshmen that you ever wanted to.” 

At a college with a sexual assault rate that is over 80% higher than the national average, sending this menacing mass e-mail is not only in poor taste, but also implies the administration is negligent. 

With the media coverage of a number of high-profile assault cases, national awareness of harassment and rape has reached a fever pitch. Schools should use this momentum to push forward agendas protecting women. 

Hate crime legislation was specifically enacted to combat harassment and assault issues, and universities should implement them accordingly. At a time when the Department of Justice estimates one out of five college females will be sexually assaulted, every institution should have anonymous reporting that encourages victims to come forward. Unfortunately, less than half of schools nationwide have adopted this common-sense policy. Prevention programs that target athletes and students in the Greek system help educate them about harassment and assault, but only a fifth of schools surveyed by the U.S. Department of Justice have such programs in place. Creating a targeted curriculum in these communities would greatly help.

While it is unclear which of these initiatives would prove to be the most effective, it is indisputable that campuses need to drastically change to combat harassment and assault. Assault on the basis of religion, race, or national origin would never be tolerated. Why should assault, either verbal or physical, on the basis of gender be any different?

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