OUR VIEW: University must address sexual assault
Ten months ago, The Crimson White decided to dedicate an entire edition of our paper to the issues surrounding on-campus sexual assault. Our staff has worked from that moment to this one to put forth this comprehensive look at a category of crimes that affect all of us and demand immediate attention. Sexual assault is a pervasive and tragic problem that affects university campuses nationwide, and it is well past time for The University of Alabama to address it.
Despite the commendable steps taken to address the issue this year, there is still more work to be done. Unlike the narrative usually favored concerning any change at this campus, this work starts at the top of our university, not by putting this responsibility solely on students. As the well-intentioned but low-impact It’s On Us campaign has shown us, even the work of our best and brightest student leaders is not enough without serious accompanying policy changes that are only able to be made by the Administration.
The first of these changes should be an expansion of the University’s Haven training program to include issues such as sexual harassment, assault of men and LGBTQ+ persons, as well as an intense focus on the definition of consent and how to give and recognize it. The University should also invest in non-online education: public guest lectures, yearly Title IX and consent trainings required of every organization with an on-campus residence and Title IX and Clery Act reporting training mandatory for an officer of every SOURCE-registered organization.
We call on The University of Alabama Police Department to immediately evaluate its own policies for how it responds to sexual assault. Victims who choose to report to police should have the option to choose the gender of the person they report to. As this edition reports, local police officers have engaged in victim-blaming rhetoric such as blaming alcohol and questioning the ability to give consent.
This University must also address the dramatic funding and staffing shortages faced by the Women and Gender Resource Center and the Title IX Coordinator’s Office. Nine WGRC staff members and three Title IX Office employees are not enough to meet the emotional, legal and physical needs of our 37,000 students. These compassionate employees are frequently forced to choose between staying late to help students in need and going home to their own families in time for dinner. This is unacceptable.
As executives of the UA Feminist Caucus cogently point out in today’s edition, the It’s On Us campaign is not nearly enough to effect positive change on this campus and is certainly not a substitute for comprehensive sexual assault education. As a news organization, The Crimson White has been alarmed since the launch of this campaign by the lack of visible administrative involvement – particularly at the Vice Presidential and above level – thus far. Apparently, "it’s" not on our administrators.
The Crimson White Editorial Board believes strongly that this campus has the potential to change, with dedicated, compassionate and immediate action from every member of this University community. More importantly, we believe that it must. The safety of all of our classmates depend on it.
Our View represents the consensus of The Crimson White Editorial Board.