Colleges forced to confront sexual assaults
At the end of April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, an unidentified Mass.gov contractor tweeted, “Sexual assault is always avoidable.” After a torrent of criticism, Gov. Deval Patrick labeled the message a “dumb mistake” and Geoff Kula, the director of Mass.gov, quickly apologized.
Yet the tweet reflects a common misperception: The blame for rape or sexual assault usually falls on the victim who should have been sober, dressed differently, or any of a number of other faults that people often ascribe to a woman who charges a man with a sexual attack.
Far from being bastions of progressive thought on the handling of these types of cases, the nation’s colleges and universities have responded in ways that are straight out of the Dark Ages. In its Sunday report on sexual assaults on college campuses The New York Times used the case of Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia University junior who had been raped by another student, to illustrate the ordeal that a woman can suffer when she decides to go public.
The man, who also had been accused of sexual assault by two other students, avoided any sanction. The case sparked campus protests and prompted a group of Columbia students to file a federal complaint.
The US Department of Education has also taken the extraordinary step of publishing a list of 55 colleges and universities under investigation for Title IX gender discrimination, which covers rape and sexual assault in addition to harassment and equal access to athletics for women.
Six Massachusetts schools are on the federal list (the most of any state): Amherst College, Boston University, Emerson College, Harvard College, Harvard University Law School, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The schools could see their federal funding evaporate if federal officials find that they have violated gender discrimination laws.
In a case that promises to be closely watched by the schools facing possible sanctions, federal education officials recently found that Tufts University violated Title IX. The university initially agreed to make policy changes until they discovered the nature of the violation and instead decided to fight Washington.
The fallout at Harvard over sexual assault issues has been especially intense in recent weeks, and the federal attention promises to up the ante. Students rallied to fight the “rape culture” at the university after a young woman revealed how university officials failed to act after a male student living in the same dorm allegedly assaulted her.
The issue has taken its toll on Harvard faculty as well. Kimberly Theidon, an anthropology professor, claims that she was denied tenure because she spoke out against sexual violence on campus and supported women who came forward with allegations. She has filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
The spotlight on sexual assault comes at a delicate time for colleges as high school seniors make decisions about where they they’ll spend the next four years. “No school wanted to talk about this and scare away prospective students,” an Amherst College activist told the Times, “We’ve hit them where it hurts: their reputations.”
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The Senate approves legislation to raze a landmark boathouse just off the Plum Island Turnpike in Newbury, the Salem News reports.
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Banker & Tradesman columnist Scott van Voorhis tackles the return of greater Boston’s housing affordability crunch, as wide swaths of the suburbs turn into millionaires-only zones.
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RACE AND SPORTS
Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson takes to Facebook to denounce the racist tweets targeting Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who scored the overtime game-winner against the Bruins on Thursday.
A new study from Boston College says the future of Catholicism in the US rests with drawing and retaining young Hispanics.
The Beat The Press panel discusses the age-old irritant for newspaper reporters when electronic media such as radio or television rips off their print stories in newscasts without attribution.
If newspapers and magazines think the going is tough now, wait until the next generation of readers, brought up on a digital diet, starts hitting its stride.
New York magazine asks whether Lara Logan is too toxic to return to 60 Minutes.CIRCUS SCARE
Nine performers in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus were injured yesterday in Providence during an aerial hair-hanging stunt when a support platform collapsed, sending the women plummeting 40 feet to the ground.