‘Til It Happens to You

This past weekend I watched The Hunting Ground, written and directed by Kirby Dick and produced by Amy Ziering. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year (2015) and documents the manner in which many campuses across the US cover up rape and sexual assaults and report false numbers to the federal government.

The incentive for the institutions to rfew if any sexual assault reports on campus is clear.
Regardless of campus rape as a side effect of the culture surrounding alcohol and fraternity housing or athletic organizations, university presidents across the United States remain loyal to their most trusted donors. Fundraising is the number one priority on every president’s to-do list. The film clearly illustrates that fundraising has a major influence on the sexual misconduct totals colleges elect to report. According to a statistic quoted in The Hunting Ground, over 60% of donations in excess of $100 million came from fraternity alumni.

The statistic brought me back to a conversation I had with a friend and fellow UVa graduate. He believes that all fraternities at UVA should be suspended for a year. Under this line of reasoning, I understood the intent behind the call for this type of suspension to serve two major purposes.

  • First, an action of this type may drive alumni members to intervene by addressing their undergraduate brothers and mandating new codes of conduct from them.
  • Second, fraternities across the nation would then view UVa’s chapters as “what not to allow,” creating a possible domino affect whereby good behavior becomes the self-imposed form of conduct before fraternities on other campuses are served the same fate.

I disagreed with his blanket suspension suggestion, however I do not deny that the impunity that benefits both the fraternity and athletic department structures plays a significant role in the behavior of said collectives. I believe there are better, more targeted and more collectively engaging ways to elicit positive responses. I remain unsure as to whether suspensions of this nature would produce the desired effects.

As I posited in my interview with UVa Magazine last fall, fraternity members were instrumental in saving my life. As a survivor and advocate, I understand the power a few good men, so to speak, can have over the masses. Fraternity men on colleges campuses are, quite honestly, the very first group of individuals university officials and administrators should be requiring to champion the cause of eliminating campus rape and sexual assaults.

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