by John Dankosky – Tuesday’s Where We Live about sexual violence on campus is part of a larger, ongoing investigation of the issue by WNPR’s Senior Editor and Education Reporter Diane Orson. It follows on the heels of a remarkable piece of reporting done by the Center For Public Integrity on the issue. That series of stories resulted in reports that you may have heard on NPR in recent months.
If you remember those stories, then what you heard on Where We Live yesterday was just sad confirmation of a trend. Victims unsure about whether to report crimes against them, and a confusing university judicial system that often makes it hard for women to get what they feel is justice.
Diane Orson played for us the voices of Joanna Bourain, a Wesleyan student who wrote an essay for the student newspaper, The Argus, called “Wesleyan’s Great, Unless You Get Raped.” It’s prompted lots of response from within the student and faculty community for the frank discussion of the campus sexual culture, about consent, and about the university’s reaction.
Another story, that of a senior named Eve, will be the subject of Diane’s future reporting. Eve’s story is sharply critical of the administration for its handling of her attack. After hearing those voices on our air, Wesleyan President Michael Roth wrote us the following email:
All colleges and universities in this country have developed policies and procedures to prevent rape and other violent crimes. But still these problems continue. No institution can afford to be complacent in this regard. At Wesleyan there have recently been a number of important conversations concerning sexual (gender) violence/prevention, and I applaud the efforts to bring these important and difficult issues to the fore. I also want to acknowledge the work of faculty, students, and staff, which not long ago led to the revision of our sexual misconduct and assault policy as well as to the creation of our Sexual Assault Resource Team (SART). SART consists of staff who serve as resources and advocate for students reporting offenses along with an intern for Wesleyan’s Health Services. We are engaged in a search to hire a Director of Health Education whose responsibilities include prevention and education around sexual violence and health. We also will continue to seek advice and recommendations from students, faculty and parents — whether they call for a dedicated staff position or any other idea for how to better deal with these issues. Far too often on college campuses incidents of sexual violence go unreported, and I want to express my admiration for those who courageously come forward. Irrespective of questions of guilt or innocence in any particular case, the more attention we can bring to this awful problem, the better we can address it. There have been student, parent, staff, and faculty meetings this year to discuss the steps necessary to make Wesleyan an even safer environment in which all students can thrive. In order to build on these efforts, I have asked vice-presidents Sonia Manjon (Diversity and Strategic Partnerships) and Mike Whaley (Student Affairs) to lead a task force to gather the best thinking from the faculty, students and staff that should lead to further improvements to our policies and staffing. I expect to receive their recommendations by the end of the calendar year. Violence, including the heinous crime of sexual violence, has no place on this campus. This is a lesson that was seared into our community’s memory a year ago. It is a foundational principle here, and we welcome the opportunity to review our policies and procedures with the goal of asserting and living up to that principle as strongly and consistently as we can.