The University of Portland, a school that prides itself on being one of the best Catholic institutions for higher education on the West coast, has failed in its due diligence in the Clara Ell case.
Every student that arrives at the University of Portland goes through the Green Dot Program. The Green Dot Program is essentially a crash-course on preventing violence on our campus, whether it’s physical, emotional, or sexual. We are taught that coercion is a form of sexual assault. Yet, an alleged assailant, who coerced a drunk female, is let off scot-free? I am appalled.
In the 2015-2016 edition of the student handbook, Life on the Bluff, it’s explicitly stated, “Interpersonal violence will not be tolerated by the University of Portland community.” And we, as a community, do not tolerate it. However, the absence of sanctions taken against the alleged perpetrator in this case suggests that nothing wrong was done, and that is sickening.
Life on the Bluff also states that “…the University believes […] sexual intimacy exists only within a marriage. Sexual intimacy outside of marriage is an inappropriate and incomplete expression of love, and such intimacy does not reflect full dignity of self and others.”
Yes, the Catholic church believes that extramarital sex is “wrong”, but the Clara Ell case wasn’t a case of extramarital sex – it was sexual assault. It was a crime. And this isn’t the first time the university has faced backlash from this type of situation.
In 2008, an article published in Willamette Week reported that a female student was sexually assaulted by a friend of hers after a night of drinking two years prior. What happened in that case? UP determined that no one was at fault and even suggested the young women violated the university’s policies and could be charged.
We can point fingers at anyone and everyone who is at fault, but we must also evaluate ourselves as a society.
The rape culture that is perpetuated at college campuses across the United States has the potential to infect the greater population, and vice-versa.
Clara, I admire you for your bravery. The amount of courage it took to speak up is incredible. I am sorry that you put so much trust into a system that you believed would help you but ultimately failed you.
As for the other “leaders” in UP’s administration, I am disappointed. I am disappointed that you choose to remain silent and delegate the commenting to your subordinates or others.
Speak up. This is your community, too.
Kale Kanaeholo is a junior history major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.