GovernmentHigher EducationPop Quiz

Pop quiz: Sexual assault on college campuses

This past week has been a big one for talking about how to deal with sexual assault on college campuses.

The White House released a memorandum outlining the plan to establish a task force to address how to reduce sexual assault on college campuses.  Also this week, a list of colleges that are under investigation was released by the Department of Education.  The investigations focus on whether the schools violated Title IX, which protects people from gender discrimination. (Also this week, the Department of Education stated that Title IX covers transgender individuals as well!)

There’s a whole lot that can be talked about here. We could talk about how most rapes on campus are not reported.  We could talk about how most rapes that are reported don’t result in any meaningful resolution.  We could talk about victim blaming, dudebro culture, frats and sororities, etc.

Men who admitted sexually assaulting me at Brown had to run extra laps at football practice #NotMuchChangedIn24Yrs

— Jesselyn Radack (@JesselynRadack) May 4, 2014

What struck me most about this was the incredible diversity in the colleges listed in that DOE investigation group.  There are schools that didn’t surprise me at all (hi, Penn State!) due primarily to their size, and then some that struck me as really odd, like Knox College and Bethany College, mostly because I hadn’t heard of them per se.  And then what really popped out at me was Sarah Lawrence, because of its history as a women’s college.  I had to look it up to remember if it was now coed, and it has been since 1968.

I’m not sure why I expected the women’s colleges to be better at this issue than others.  I’m not sure why I expected smaller schools to be better at it.  I think I fell into the trap of separating college life from real life, and assumed that the ivory tower was a place of protection, when we all know it is not.  I do know my institution has dealt with some non-assault incidents recently and dealt with them in a fairly transparent and timely fashion.  Whether that would apply to a sexual assault, I don’t know.  (I prefer to remain anonymous at this time, so I will not provide more details on the incidents or my institution – thanks for understanding.)

I am going to investigate our procedures in the coming weeks!

Here’s my question to you: how well does/did your college deal with sexual assault?  Do you even know?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the afternoon (ET).

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Apostrophobia is a college professor at a women's college in the US. She teaches biology, does pedagogical research on her guinea pigs (aka students), and has an existential fear of misplaced apostrophes.


  1. May 5, 2014 at 4:50 pm —

    I know almost nothing about our school’s policies about sexual assault. Harassment, yes — we have mandatory training at least once a year. Assault, no; probably because almost none of our students live on campus and because the programs are focused on graduate level and above. A search on the web site tells me that the policy on violence prevention includes procedures for sexual assaults on campus and reporting incidents to the Disciplinary Committee for the perpetrator’s school. How that works in the real world, I haven’t the foggiest.

    • May 5, 2014 at 6:31 pm —

      We don’t even have the harassment training. Many of our students are also commuters, but a small number do live on campus. The incidents I mentioned above have increased our discussion of security, but our policies seem…murky.

  2. May 5, 2014 at 5:39 pm —

    ” And then what really popped out at me was Sarah Lawrence, because of its history as a women’s college. I had to look it up to remember if it was now coed, and it has been since 1968.”

    I live near Sarah Lawrence, and it’s been in the local news for a sexual assault case which the college is accused of not taking sufficiently seriously. Since the college and its community consider themselves progressive, there’s more soul-searching than there might be at other places. One complication is that the alleged assaulter is black and the accuser is white.

    • May 5, 2014 at 6:32 pm —

      Thanks for the context. That does explain why they’re on the list then. The term “sufficiently seriously” seems to be the crux of the problem, doesn’t it?

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