NJ Advance Media reported on Universities across the country that are cracking down on fraternities and sororities involved in cases of alcohol and sexual abuse. Although these actions are commendable, it is questionable if punishing misconduct is a strong enough measure in limiting cases of sexual abuse on college campuses.
Compared to colleges around the nation, RIT has a below average rate of sexual assault. Only 14 instances were reported in 2013, or .78 cases per one thousand students. A report by the U.S. Department of Justice shows that the average number of reported sexual assaults against females per one thousand students is 6.1. This rate is much higher than RIT’s and it doesn’t include any sexual assaults against male students.
So what’s the difference between RIT and many other college campuses? And what’s the solution to limiting sexual assaults?
It is hard to say, but with 50 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses connected to alcohol use, according to a study from Wayne State University, it is easy to see a possible correlation between RIT’s mostly dry campus and the lower number of sexual assaults. It is important to note though, that Public Safety at RIT estimates 95 percent of RIT’s residential students at Global Village, the Residence Halls and Greek houses, are below the legal drinking age, making the decision to have a dry residential area much less controversial. A dry campus may not be so appealing, or effective, on campuses where there is a higher percentage of drinking age adults.
While one solution may not be the answer for every single university, it is important that universities use preventative measures against sexual assault in addition to punishing incidences of abuse. NJ Advance Media reported on Rutgers recent decision to take action to help ease the trend of what was becoming an increasingly tragedy riddled year for fraternities and sororities on campus. Administration decided to ban all parties for the rest of the spring semester, a decision that was eventually accepted by students.
A Greek leader on campus responded to the decision: “It kind of became the idea of what are we willing to risk our community for? Is it really worth it for the last three weeks of our semester?” Although many, including leaders of fraternities and sororities not involved in the incidents, welcomed the decision, it is not a permanent solution and punishing all fraternities and sororities for the wrong doing of a few is not a fair solution.
In a research paper exploring sexual violence on college campuses by Dr. Sarah DeGue of the Division of Violence Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many effective preventative measures are offered. DeGue suggests a wide variety of preventative measures including “efforts to reduce excessive alcohol use”, attempts to “build bystander intervention” during “multi-session intervention for incoming students” and implementing social marketing campaigns “to address norms related to sexual violence, gender, sexuality” among other suggestions.
These are the kinds of research-supported measures available to college administrations that can make a difference in preventing sexual assault, not just punishing it. It is up to administrations to implement them and up to students to accept them. Rutgers is half way there, they have made changes in policy to reduce alcohol abuse connected with sexual abuse, and the students have accepted the changes. But what they have not achieved is long term, preventative solutions that can change the culture of sexual assault on campus, a challenge that campuses across the country are attempting to overcome