At the beginning of the school year, the Brown University library became a repository for information of a most unusual kind: on its bathroom walls women made a list of the male students who the women said had raped them.
Repeatedly scrubbed from the bathrooms by janitors only to reappear, the list of names has grown in recent weeks to as many as 30 and has appeared in several other bathrooms on campus. In the process, the list has become the background for a noisy debate about date rape on this campus of 6,500 students.
Oops! That story was from 1990. Here’s the current story:
The list of names first appeared last Wednesday, each scrawled in a different hand, on the wall of a women’s bathroom in Hamilton Hall, an academic building at Columbia University.
“Sexual assault violators on campus,” it alleged, followed by the names of four male undergraduates.
The list was quickly scrubbed away, but by early this week it had reappeared on the walls of several other women’s bathrooms around campus. On Tuesday, stacks of fliers also appeared, with the same four names beneath the words “Rapists on Campus.” The fliers, left in bathrooms, asserted that three of the men had been found “responsible” by the university for sexual assault and described the fourth as a “serial rapist.”
Nothing has changed in a quarter of a century–today’s college seniors weren’t even born when the Brown rapist list went up. In 1990, there was legitimate reason to think that most police forces wouldn’t take sexual assault, especially on a college campus with alcohol seriously. Many also didn’t have trained personnel to handle these cases. In 2014, there is no reason why universities shouldn’t be required to assist sexual assault victims in dealing with the police, so rapists, the majority of whom are serial rapists, don’t commit more crimes. Actually, there is one reason why universities want to sweep this under the rug:
But institutional ass-covering also plays a huge role. No elite university wants to admit that it graduates at least a dozen rapists, the majority serial rapists, every year.
Re-read that last sentence. Now the math. In a study that surveyed college students, six percent of men admitted* to raping one or more people–two thirds admitted to sexually assaulting multiple people. Let’s say for argument’s sake that Harvard students are much more ethical than the typical college student, so the frequency of rapists is ‘only’ two percent. The typical graduating class at Harvard is around 1,500 students, half of whom are men (750 men). Put all of this together and the average Harvard graduating class contains fifteen rapists, nine or ten of whom are serial rapists.
Let’s repeat that: the average Harvard graduating class contains fifteen rapists, nine or ten of whom are serial rapists. Put another way, if a university isn’t punishing at least one student per month for sexual assault, then it’s whitewashing the crimes. In fairness, you could substitute any similarly-sized university with Harvard–this isn’t a Harvard-specific phenomenon (as noted above, most universities seem to think their students wouldn’t ever rape).
Oddly enough, this is one statistic that doesn’t find its way into campus brochures.
Universities need to be held liable for tolerating–that is, aiding and abetting–rapists. This, written by Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, is the attitude that must be adopted by universities:
Our job is to protect America and its interests, nothing more, and certainly not our own. Defending the interests of career NCOs and officers is a betrayal of our oaths. Think about it: Every time a crime is committed by one of our own in any service, we lose a little. We lose credibility and we lose the potential to bring in the strongest and the smartest — and we really need both to volunteer — because we are not seen as open, fair, and right. The nation has a culture that is mutable, and so we too must be mutable. We must change with the times and the culture, or we will lose our ability to bring in the good and the strong. That will make us weak, and then we might fail in our mission. Accepting change is what we are supposed to do, because we reflect the nation, even as we defend it. Acknowledging that sometimes we bring in wrong ones and that some of those who join the colors should not automatically be beatified into some sort of American pantheon, will make us stronger.
It bears repeating: that the typical high-end university will graduate and credential, and by doing so will improve the lives of at least a dozen (if not many more) men who have gotten away with sexual assault–in the majority of cases, multiple assaults–must be seen as nothing less than a fundamental ethical failure of the university.
Or else we will have to read about rapist lists in another twenty five years.