Archive for May, 2014

25
May
14

campus violence

This term, I am struck by the high levels of violence on university campuses. This weekend’s incident at UCSB is of course troubling and tragic. Other recent incidents of rape and sexual violence at UO, and the UO Office of the President’s inept and inadequate response, are also troubling instances of a university administration unable to move beyond tired tropes of “procedure” and “policy”, and unwilling to face the potential political and financial fallout of standing up to the Athletics Establishment. At UO in the past month since the rape involving three basketball players and a botched Eugene Police Department response (that included making the incident/crime report publicly available on the web, which inappropriately included the name of the victim and details of the incident still under investigation), students have reacted with a range of responses, including: stigma and rejection, trauma and re-living their own past experiences of sexual violence, and anger and organizing to pressure the campus Administration for change. (All topics I’m discussing in my small seminar class this term, allowing a space for students to process this incident and its aftermath.) Student pressure has culminated in a list of demands made on the Administration, including: asking for an overhaul of EPD and campus police response to incidents of rape and sexual assault, increased funding for support services for sexual violence survivors on campus, and a required general education course covering sexual violence-related topics. These are strong and explicit demands that make particular sense during a political moment when the Obama Administration is advancing a campaign to address sexual violence and rape on college campuses nation-wide (estimates are that 1:4 college women will experience sexual violence) and yet the UO higher-ups have thus far failed to act. Shameful. 

I don’t yet know the details of the UCSB case of this weekend, but news coverage of the violence there is troubling as well. For one, it seems the perpetrator was receiving counseling and other forms of mental health services, and his “mental instability” is used almost as justification for violence – perpetuating stereotypes equating mental illness with violence and sidelining issues of gun laws and accessibility to firearms that make deadly violence possible. In addition, it seems the attacker was targeting women specifically (a sorority was one of his targets and two women standing outside among his victims), implying deep-seated links between misogyny and violence that reflect the larger cultural problem of sexual violence on university campuses and beyond.