by Ty Slobe
Universities have a responsibility to protect students from violence, discrimination, harassment, and assault. When something violent happens to students on or off campus, universities have a responsibility to handle these cases in an appropriate way that keeps the campus community and the victim safe. Given this extremely basic responsibility that schools owe to their tuition-paying students, it’s incredible how frequently students’ rights are violated after reporting sexual assault. It’s incredible how incapable universities have been at protecting students who have been assaulted. It’s incredible how often victims of sexual assault also become victims of illegal institutionalized rape apologism.
In response to these universities’ failures to protect victims, there’s been a wave of students bringing their cases to the federal level. Victims across the country have reporting their universities’ illegal handlings of their cases to the federal government by reporting their universities’ violations to Title IX and Clery. With the help of internet organizing on behalf of the Title IX Network victims have been able to access comprehensive information and support regarding their rights as students, and the rights that their universities too frequently deny them:
Students should not have to bear the responsibility of protecting themselves from both their assailants and their universities. Campuses that are incapable of handling sexual assault are not safe for students. This has been going on for too long and students’ safety has been compromised for far too long. In response to this widespread mishandling of sexual assault reports, last week in a President Obama committed to creating the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault:
“There’s obviously more that we have to do to keep our students safe. And that’s why here today, I will sign a presidential memorandum creating the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. And we’re going to work with colleges and universities and educational institutions of all kinds across America to help them come up with better ways to prevent and respond to sexual assault on their campuses.”
As a student at the University of Colorado Boulder—a university that is under federal investigations for both Title IX and Clery violations—I am deeply horrified at how campuses like CU have handled reports of assault, how little they have done to inform people about what constitutes assault, how rarely they inform the campus community of assaults, and how they have consistently denied agency and legitimacy to students who have reported. It is clear to me that it is necessary that the federal government become more directly involved in how campuses deal with sexual assault. This is an important step.
As this task force moves forward students and victims need to be involved in the issues and changes that the task force addresses. Our voices are important because it’s our safety that is being compromised. That’s why members of the Title IX network have created To The Obama Sexual Assault Task Force, a Tumblr account that allows YOU to submit concerns that you’d like to see the task force address. We’re encouraging submissions from victims, students, parents, staff, faculty, anyone who has any concerns about how sexual assault is handled on college campuses. Together we’re working to get our voices heard by the president and the task force. Whether you submit anonymously or with specific complaints about your own university, your stories and opinions matter.
We’ve already made a lot of progress by banning together to tell our stories and demand our rights—even the White House has taken notice. Let’s keep up the wave of student-led activism.
For more information on the Title IX Network visit KnowYourIX.org.