Universities need to take more responsibility in sexual assault cases

A Columbia University student is protesting against the institution, which she feels is improperly handling her rape claim, by carrying a mattress with her everywhere she goes until her rapist is removed from campus. 

This incident at Columbia does not stand alone; colleges around the country are being scrutinized for loosely handling reports of sexual assault. The University of Connecticut faced backlash in October last year following a lawsuit filed by four female students claiming their reports of sexual violence on campus were not properly handled. 

The suit followed two federal complaints by seven UConn students claiming the university failed to take action in regard to their reports of sexual violence. UConn settled out of court in July for $1.28 million, stating they wanted to avoid a lengthy court process. 

Many of the questions posed throughout the trial are identical to those asked in most cases of rape: What was she wearing? Was she drinking? These disgusting questions are thinly veiled accusations of the victim. However, these questions bring to mind a serious problem among college-age women and men. 

Is it too much to ask that colleges take cases of rape seriously without victim blaming? Sexual assault is a serious issue, one that cannot be taken lightly and offenders should be punished to the full extent of the law. Colleges should begin to take preventative measures such as educating young men about consent in order to reduce, if not eliminate, cases of rape. 

Tragically, in cases like UConn, many schools do not handle reports of sexual misconduct appropriately. The White House has stepped in with a comprehensive report of recommendations for colleges. Though the White House’s recommendation is only that, schools are beginning to feel the heat. The University of Connecticut is not the only school that has paid significant figures. In 2013, Yale was forced to pay $165,000 for failing to report instances of sexual assault, and 55 other colleges are under investigation for similar reasons. 

Colleges should educate women and men on how to avoid unwanted sexual encounters in an effort to take better responsibility for its students. College is supposed to be the best time of a person’s life. 

Grace Hoyte is a sophomore majoring in English. 

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