This past weekend, West Chester University experienced campus sexual assaults - both in residence halls, both by people familiar to the victim. Students received a safely advisory after the fact informing them of the assaults.
In the wake of the Stanford rape case, how universities are handling campus sexual assault is an important and popular topic. This is probably one of the reasons that West Chester University President Christopher Fiorentino very promptly sent out an email condemning campus sexual violence and outlining available resources, as well as rolling out some new programs.
The email reads as follows:
The Bad Within The Good
At first glance, this is a good email. The President condemns campus sexual violence, and encourages all staff, faculty, and students to do so as well. He provides information on campus resources and programs that aim to start conversation about and decrease campus sexual assault. He even talks about upcoming efforts to bring sexual assault education into the residence halls themselves.
But, there is one more paragraph in that email. There is one paragraph in that email that, while most likely seeming non problematic to some, has caught the eye of many students.
There is one paragraph that rings of - reeks of - some of the same philosophies that we have been hearing throughout that same aforementioned Stanford rape case.
That paragraph reads:
"To that end, we will be launching some new efforts to help keep students safe. Starting this weekend, Public Safety will institute safety checkpoints. Officers will speak with groups of students leaving and returning to campus about responsible actions, substance abuse and by-stander responsibilities. Random sobriety checks will also occur throughout the weekend."
What many students see in this paragraph is the suggestion that to confront the issue of campus assault is to confront the issue of alcohol (and drug) consumption. It is to talk about "responsibility" and "substance abuse". The idea of sobriety checks - to stop campus assault? - implies that, by scaring students into not drinking, this will somehow stop sexual assaults.
Who else remembers Brock Turner blaming his assault on "party culture"? And the whole issue being wrapped in the "well, she was drunk, so drinking caused it" and "drunk kids make mistakes" mentality?
Students at West Chester University do. And they are not going to stand for it happening here, on their campus.
We Are Angry
On the evening of September 7th, a statue of WCU's mascot, the Ram, was boldly covered in protest.
The papers covering the statue are printouts of the above email from WCU's President with a bold, unapologetic message from the student body: "THIS IS NOT THE ANSWER. ALCOHOL DOES NOT CAUSE RAPE."
Looking at these images - and one can imagine, standing in front of the statue live - the anger and the resentment radiates.
The students at WCU know that they deserve better.
The girl who captured the above photos posted them to Facebook with this powerful statement:
Please Listen, WCU
West Chester University, please listen to your students. They appreciate your condemnations, your programs, your campus resources. Your efforts are not going unnoticed.
But this is what they need. They need YOU to confront the issue head on, for what it is. They need you to stop masking campus sexual assault as something that happens when people get too drunk or act irresponsibly. They need you to listen to what they have to say, to what college students are saying all over the country.
I, myself, took it into my own hands to address the issues with this email. While I am not a WCU student, my boyfriend is, and after showing me the email from the President I felt as though I had to take action. I sent an email to President Fiorentino, and after posting the email to Facebook, got an overwhelming amount of support from the student body.
The email reads:
While I do not feel comfortable being the voice for WCU, I felt it was my obligation as a fellow student - and as a fellow person - to say something.
I am waiting for a response from President Fiorentino, and I encourage all of you at West Chester University (and at colleges everywhere) to take this issue even more firmly into your own hands. Have a conversation with a classmate, email the President, do something to make a statement.
Compromise, be kind, but don't let the anger die.
Will update with any further information.
UPDATE: Flyers Continue To Spread Across Campus
These are only some of the flyers that were spotted around campus on Thursday, September 8th.