Sexual assaults on campus then and now

Back in the late 1980s when I was a Vil­lano­va Uni­ver­si­ty under­grad, sex­u­al assault didn’t hap­pen. True story.

It will sur­prise no one to learn that I co-edited an alter­na­tive, “under­ground” week­ly junior and senior year. We called it the VACUUM, a name whose acronym changed every issue. Read­ing about an ear­ly “date rape” study in my fem­i­nist stud­ies class I extrap­o­lat­ed how many rapes should rea­son­ably be expect­ed to occur on a cam­pus of Villanova’s size. I added a few anec­dotes from my all-male dorm expe­ri­ence and pub­lished it in the VACUUM. A short while lat­er some friends of mine who edit­ed the offi­cial stu­dent paper picked up the sto­ry and even cit­ed an anony­mous quo­ta­tion from me in what is prob­a­bly the only offi­cial doc­u­men­ta­tion of the VACUUM’s exis­tence in the V.U. archives.

Right around this time a female stu­dent brought her alle­ga­tions of an on-campus sex­u­al assault to the local police. Cam­pus offi­cials feigned sur­prise and pro­vid­ed the local media with par­rot­ed quotes: “In all my xyz years work­ing here I have nev­er ever heard of an alle­ga­tion of rape.” Chief of Secu­ri­ty, Dean of Stu­dents, etc., all deliv­ered the same line, clear­ly coached by a pub­lic rela­tions team, with only the years changed to reflect their cam­pus tenure. Thou­sands of stu­dents, dozens of years, hun­dreds of frat par­ties, tanker-fulls of cheap beer and not a hint of impropriety.
Last night I chanced on my alma mater’s web­site and saw a link right there on the home­page to an arti­cle mys­te­ri­ous titled Recent Cam­pus Inci­dent (gener­ic URL, prob­a­bly designed to dis­ap­pear soon). It doc­u­ment­ed an alleged assault on a female stu­dent by three mem­bers of the foot­ball team last month. The announce­ment reports that the Uni­ver­si­ty found them in vio­la­tion of the campus’s Code of Con­duct and “rescind­ed the admis­sion of the three young men.”

A Google News search turns up that this has been exten­sive­ly cov­ered by the media with almost 500 hits. The Del­co Times reports that the 1990 Clery Act and its amend­ments have made uni­ver­si­ty cover-ups ille­gal and required reports and spe­cif­ic pro­to­cols for respond­ing to cam­pus crimes. The cur­rent media spot­light and long-standing fed­er­al laws cer­tain­ly account for much of Villanova’s 2007 enlight­en­ment. What­ev­er the source of change, it’s nice to see. Even three play­ers from the beloved foot­ball team can get the boot (sor­ry, have their admis­sions rescind­ed) for crim­i­nal behav­ior. Bet­ter still, the uni­ver­si­ty can fess up to the crime and take some respon­si­bil­i­ty. The times, they have a’ changed.

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