Obama And Biden Won’t Visit Colleges That Don’t Address Sexual Assault. Here Are 5 Schools They Might Boycott.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have long been vocal advocates when it comes to fighting sexual assault on college campuses. From launching the “It’s On Us” initiative that asks men and women alike to commit to being part of the solution to campus sexual assault to speaking about sexual assault at the 2016 Oscars and plenty of other major events, the Obama administration has made it clear as day that rape culture on college campuses is not something it’s going to tolerate. And according to White House officials, key members of the Obama administration won’t visit colleges that don’t address sexual assault adequately. This includes Obama, Biden, their wives, and members of the Cabinet.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Biden took things a step further and suggested the federal government “take away their money” if any college fails to reform its policies and take a harder line against cases of sexual assault. “Now is the time to put the pedal to the medal,” the Vice President said, referring to the administration’s latest decision.
Biden seemed deeply and personally affected by the ruling in the Stanford rape case last month, writing in a powerful open letter to Brock Turner’s anonymous victim, “I am filled with furious anger both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken,” and calling her a “warrior with a solid steel spine.”
It might just be that Turner’s controversially lax sentencing, which sent the message to many that rape isn’t a serious crime and justice for victims comes second to protecting their rapists, inspired this recent, bold action by the White House. At any rate, while statistics about sexual assault from any college campus can be misleading, as it’s not uncommon for colleges conscious of their reputation and ranking to hide and misrepresent cases of sexual assault, colleges that are honest and report relatively high rates of sexual assault are still responsible for the fact that, if rates are consistently high, they clearly need to be doing far more to protect students and prevent rape.
So, here are some colleges Obama and Biden might just be boycotting in light of their recent decision.
1. Northwestern University
One student at Northwestern, who was impregnated by her rapist but was able to get an abortion, reported being forced to take medical leave or she “would not be allowed to return to Northwestern University” after telling officials about her struggles with mental health and dealing with her experiences. The letter sent to her also allegedly stated that if she was not deemed “healthy and safe enough,” officials would “work with (her) to take a medical leave of absence.” According to Jezebel, “medical leave is a voluntary choice that only a student can make,” but the decision was reportedly made for the student, almost as if to silence her.
Multiple students told The Daily Northwestern their experiences with the university’s sexual assault and mental health resources had been “disconnected and impersonal,” and that it took weeks just to set up the required preliminary phone evaluation, let alone talk to a real person and get justice.
2. Amherst College
Angie Epifano, a former member of the Amherst class of 2014, alleged that after reporting her experience with sexual assault to administrators, she essentially received this response:
“In short I was told: No you can’t change dorms, there are too many students right now. Pressing charges would be useless, he’s about to graduate, there’s not much we can do. Are you SURE it was rape? It might have just been a bad hookup…You should forgive and forget.”
Epifano’s experiences quickly went viral, and to many, are indicative of an overarching effort by elite liberal arts colleges to maintain their prestige and reputations by sweeping victims under the rug.
3. Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt made headlines earlier this year when a former football player was found guilty of raping an unconscious student. According to statistics compiled by Start Class, its forcible on-campus sex offense rate of 1.0531 per 1,000 students is the third highest in the nation. However, it’s worth noting that statistics about rape from any college can’t necessarily be taken at face value, and could be dramatically higher than they’re presenting.
4. University of California, Davis
UC Davis’ forcible on-campus sex offense rate of 0.6845 per 1,000 students is, unfortunately, far from highest in the nation. But the school boasts a cringe-worthy number of 231 recognized cases of forcible on-campus sexual offenses, according to data from the Office of Postsecondary Education’s Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool collected between 2003 and 2013. The high number is indicative of the need for some serious preventive reform that a boycott by POTUS might just inspire them to take on.
5. Dartmouth College
Not only does Dartmouth have a disturbingly high rate of forcible on-campus sex offenses (2.3356 per 1,000 students) along with 153 recognized cases of on-campus sexual assault between 2003 and 2013, but the school was notoriously lax about an online message board with a “rape guide.” The message board recommended the rape of one student roughly one week before she was raped, and the survivor told The Huffington Post she was “completely disgusted” by the college’s inaction regarding the message board that targeted her and other female students.
According to KnowYourIX.org, referring to the Title IX education amendment that “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity,” college campuses are required to handle cases of rape:
“Rape and other forms of gender-based violence manifest and perpetuate inequality, and federal antidiscrimination law recognizes that. To make sure that all students, regardless of their gender identity and expression, have equal access to education, schools are required to prevent and respond to reports of sexual violence.”
This is supposed to be to the benefit of students who fear they will face doubt and even abuse from law enforcement, notorious for being skeptical of victims despite the statistical unlikeliness of their dishonesty. But if colleges prioritize campus reputation and ranking over the needs and humanity of their students, reporting to one’s administration is hardly the better option.
For his own part, Biden wrote the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, and regularly delivers incredible speeches about sexual assault that are, frankly, each deserving of their own articles. As a whole, The Washington Post reports that more than 344,400 people have personally taken the White House pledge in response to the It’s On Us initiative, and 530 schools in 48 states have created active It’s On Us chapters.
Whether or not Obama and Biden’s latest act against campus sexual assault will actually motivate colleges too set on maintaining their rankings to consider the needs of victims and potential victims has yet to be seen. But either way, the administration has a powerful legacy where sexual assault and countering campus rape culture is concerned.