Students respond to Title IX complaints
Community is disappointed with how allegations are being handled, call for an open forum
Published: Friday, October 25, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 25, 2013 00:10
Students at the UConn have responded with shock to the Title IX allegations brought against the university and are disappointed with how it is being handled by the school and president.
After seven current and former UConn students filed a formal complaint that the university failed to protect them after reports of sexual assault and rape on Monday, President Susan Herbst defended the school’s response in an address to the Board of Trustees on Wednesday.
In general, students agree that the university needs to do more in terms of communicating how sexual assault will be recognized and prevented in the future.
“I don’t know all the information, all the facts, I’m just an observer, but it’s painful to watch other people suffer and the administration not do everything in is ability to protect those individuals, and I hope that this controversy doesn’t hurt the university, I hope it starts the conversation about rape culture that is positive and productive,” said 3rd-semester ACES major Varun Khatter.
If Title IX violations are found, the university could lose federal funding or face fines according to the complainants’ attorney Gloria Allred.
“I really hope the university takes all these allegations and really invests, and makes sure none of these allegations come up again,” said Panhellenic President Christine Campbell, a 7th-semester human development and family studies major.
Undergraduate Student Government Senator Abdullah Hasan agreed that the university should start a conversation to stop the allegations from happening again after he realized many students are not aware of what rape culture is, he said.
On his Facebook page, Hasan, a 3rd-semester political science and human rights double major, posted an explanation of rape culture after USG unanimously passed a resolution to address the prevalence of sexual harassment and the rape culture on campus.
“I ask fellow men the following questions,” Hasan wrote, “Have you been told to never walk home alone at night? Have you been told to always go to a party with a friend? Have you been told to take self-defense classes? Do you walk around with your keys in between your fingers (known as the ‘bear claw’) ready to defend any attacks? Do you, or have you ever been told to, carry pepper spray on you? Now ask these same questions to your sister, mother, girlfriend, wife or female friend. This is ‘rape culture’: to be under constant threat of rape or sexual assault. Imagine living your life with constant fear. Imagine constricting your every action because your safety is not guaranteed.”
On UConn’s rape culture, some students were certain it existed, while others were shocked to hear the student’s sexual assault and rape stories.
“I was shocked really, I thought that it was just called the rape trail, not that it actually occurred,” said 1st-semester ACES major Brad Morrison.
Campbell said she personally had not seen much of a rape culture on campus, but “clearly it must be somewhat true if people feel this strongly about it.”
“I was really surprised at first that they were getting a lawyer involved, then after reading the stories, I was so proud of these women,” Campbell said.
Caitlyn Sousa said she is a survivor of sexual assault and that she did not have the opportunity to press charges.
“I think it’s very empowering for these women to come forward about this…The whole thing with rape culture is a lot of people assume that these types of issues occur during the night. The root of the problem is that people don’t realize that they actually occur with people they know when they are at parties consuming alcohol,” said the 3rd-semester psychology major, who transferred to UConn this semester.
Hasan said there was definitely a rape culture on campus, and Khattar called it a reality that the university doesn’t recognize.
Khattar added, “I don’t believe that the administration, Susan Herbst or the UConn police force intend to do any harm to any members of community, and I have faith that they are concerned about the greater good of the community, but regardless of intentions the reality is UConn could be a safer place.”
Nicole Simonsen, a 3rd-semester women studies and human rights major said to ensure that women feel safe on campus “we need to have a policy change and attitude change.
“I would like to see President Herbst more outraged by these students’ stories, and want to make a positive change and positive improvements,” Simonsen said.
Khattar said he would like to hear Herbst “speak not as an administrator, but as a person and be honest.”
“I want to see her become more involved with issue that are important to the university,” said Frankie Wunschel, a 3rd-semester statistics and human rights double major.
Wunschel agreed that the issue should be addressed through discussion, but noted that it should not “be shoved down people’s throats.
“I don’t think it’s a huge issue, you can’t go over the top with something like it. It’s an issue that needs to be talked about, not forced upon people,” he said.
Sumia Hussain, a 5th-semester allied health science major who went to the Board of Trustees meeting said of Herbst’s defense to the allegations: “even though she was listing resources available, I am disappointed that there is not enough outreach to tell students we have these resources.”