Even I’m a bit shocked by the title of this post. Have I really been blogging for fifteen years? I keep double-checking the math but it keeps adding up. In November 1997 I added a feature to my two-year-old peace website. I called this new entity Nonviolence Web Upfront and updated it weekly with original features and curated links to the best online pacifist writing. I wrote a retrospective of the “early blogging days” in 2005 that talks about how it came about and gives some context about the proto-blogs happening back in 1997.
But I could arguably go back further than 15 years. In college, my friend Brni and I started an alternative print magazine called VACUUM. It came out weekly. It had a mix of opinion pieces and news from all over. Familiar, huh? Columns were made up from a dot matrix printer and pasted down with scotch tape, with headlines scrawled out with a sharpie. The ethos was there. Next April will mark its Silver Jubilee.
What’s most striking is not the huge leaps of technologies, but the single-mindedness of my pursuits all these years. There are cross-decade echos of themes and ways of packaging publications that continue in my work as editor of Friends Journal.
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.