UP's commitment to ending sexual assault is commendable

By The Beacon | April 10, 2014 2:09am

Clare Duffy |

Columbia University: my dream school.

As a self-professed journalism nerd, I’d dreamt of becoming a Lion since my freshman year of high school, and I actually cried a little when I finally visited the Columbia School of Journalism in person. After only a few weeks at UP, however, I was sure that I had made the right decision in coming here for multiple reasons. And a recent incident at my had-been dream school has reaffirmed this confidence.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. But wait -- you probably already knew that, courtesy of posters placed throughout campus and displays in each of the residence halls and the Pilot House honoring and encouraging those who choose to actively perpetuate anti-rape culture.

Sure, yeah, you’ve seen them, but why does it matter? As it turns out, at UP we’re actually privileged to be at an institution that not only doesn’t shy away from the topic of sexual assault on college campuses, but also stands up to the problem and the attitude surrounding it in a variety of ways, including the Green Dot Movement, the No More Campaign and others.

In case you aren’t aware of quite how significant this problem is, The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that about one in four women will be the victim of attempted or completed rape during their college years.

And not everyone is doing something about it. Multiple highly regarded universities have recently been under fire for responding improperly (or not at all) when female students who had been raped attempted to report the violence to the school, including the University of Indianapolis, University of Southern California and Columbia University.

Unfortunately, the indiscretion does not stop there. According to articles from both the Huffington Post and the Columbia Daily Spectator, a group of student activists at Columbia were physically restrained by administrators from entering an event for prospective students this past Sunday. This group, called No Red Tape, was attempting to hand out letters urging students and parents to consider the implications of choosing a university whose policies for addressing on-campus sexual assaults are not up to snuff.

I was devastated to discover this about the school I had still held in such high regard, and for its journalism program -- a pillar of free speech rights -- no less. Certainly, there is no academic prestige or historical significance or Ivy League membership that can overshadow the fact that I can’t imagine being at a place whose display of basic morals and priorities I am horrified by.

That’s not to say that the entire community at Columbia agreed with what happened, in fact I doubt the majority of them did. But for the administration, which could have been extremely influential in inciting positive change against the issue, to have behaved that way does not instill any amount of confidence.

Fortunately, the prospective students and families visiting UP in the coming days for Weekend On The Bluff will not be shielded from the very real problem of rape and sexual assault on all college campuses, ours included -- a problem that, like most problems, won’t go away if we just ignore it. Instead, they’ll be able to see how committed the UP community is to raising awareness about and confronting the issue with realistic solutions involving changing attitudes and adopting prevention strategies, rather than only responding to incidents when they happen.

Hopefully, too, by becoming aware of the fact that we’re lucky to be at a school that cares about this issue, students will all be inclined to become even more involved in our community’s activism against it.

Thanks again, UP, for proving to me that I absolutely made the right choice.

Clare Duffy is a freshman communication studies major. She can be reached at duffy17@up.edu.