Outrage has often turned to complacency. We believe that some problems are so large, that others with more time, money or motivation will band together to stop them. And so we wait for the eradication of the problem, for our own part doing nothing.
But what is particularly troubling is when even the outrage eludes us. Either we are too uninformed or are operating under the belief that our admission of an issue will have no effect. Here at the UofA, it is imperative that we reject this thinking because we have a very big issue and very little outrage.
Last year, it was revealed that UofA was under investigation for failure to properly handle cases related to Title IX, a university-specific federal procedure designed to deal with instances of sexual violence and misconduct—and often, to resolve them internally.
This year, a former student sued the university, claiming that the university mishandled her Title IX case and did not properly punish the man who raped her. She ended up leaving the university, citing trauma stemming from the university’s failure to protect her.
Our own students are being sexually assaulted, and our university is under investigation and being sued for mishandling those assaults. Our own students are having life-changing charges reviewed and resolved at the hands of professors, and still we say nothing.
We have skipped outrage and instead entered complacency. Why?
We at the newspaper hope it isn’t for lack of information. The issue is well-documented, both by this newspaper and others around the nation. And yet the student body remains silent.
In a university setting – a historically liberal place where the opportunity for the free exchange of ideas, conversation and conflicting viewpoints is vast, encouraged and lauded – it is appalling that the extent of the campus-wide dialogue about sexual assault is limited to the student government’s singular spring seminar dedicated to the topic. We applaud the effort and execution of that initiative – it cracked open the door that will lead us to further discussion and solutions.
However, it’s not enough to just open that door. It’s time to bust it down.
The student body must unify in calls to closely examine the procedures underlying Title IX, and we must end our collective silence on the issue of sexual assault on this campus — not only is it happening, but it is quite possible that justice is being regularly mishandled under a guideline that is archaic and overreaching.
Title IX is intended to deal with “misconduct,” but is extended to cases of rape. Perhaps overreaching isn’t strong enough. Is it fair to classify a rape as an act of misconduct? Once again, stronger words are needed.
Furthermore, the idea of investigation as presented in Title IX ought be reworked by someone with a more thorough understanding of the word. Though the victim has the option to file his or her case with police, Title IX cases are often handled exclusively by the university with a panel of faculty members assigned to serve as the judges.
To be clear, there are members of the faculty who are responsible for passing judgment on students in cases of “sexual misconduct,” which unfortunately for the UofA, has come to include rape.
The academics are making the tough decisions, perhaps because they feel that a vast mountain of specified knowledge gives them rare insight into a situation so uniquely appalling that no one ought ever play judge. But to play jury and executioner as well strikes us as inexcusable.
Has ever the arrogance of one holding a PhD been on such display? Will our professors soon exert their jurisdiction over other acts of misconduct as well? Imagine the decision being handed down on a stabbing, reading like a research paper and igniting raging debate over hostile-attribution bias while the student who was stabbed stands idly by wondering whether justice will ever come.
For our part, we must end the silence. We must recognize not only the scope of the issue at hand, but its severity. As students of this university, we stand to play a pivotal role in the Title IX saga as it unfolds before us. We may remain complacent, or we may use our voices. The choice ought to be easy, but it is ours alone to make.
Correction: Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misused the word "assailant." It has been corrected to use the word "victim."
The Arkansas Traveler strives for accuracy and clarity.