Anti-sexual assault task force is an unsettling wake-up call

by Kelly Gardner

The stereotypes associated with college campuses have remained relatively consistent throughout the years. The average person would typically visualize typically mediocre living conditions, raging parties, all-nighters and unfortunately occasional sketchy situations. While most are aware of the potential dangers students face at college, the more realistic concerns are often pushed to the back of our minds.

Last month President Obama announced the establishment of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The task force is meant to help colleges more effectively educate and protect their students against sexual assault, while also holding them responsible for the manner in which these concerns are addressed.

The task force is designed with a positive purpose in mind: he’s aiming to improve the safety of students and raising the standards of acceptable behavior among students and universities. Although the idea of working to improve the mindfulness of our nation’s citizens is great, I need for a federally assembled a task force appalling and it should act as a wake-up call for college communities.

[quote]The prominence of sexual assault on college campuses may not be obvious, but when you dig a little deeper the picture becomes much clearer and bleaker.[/quote] A White House report stated that one in five women have been sexually assaulted while at college, only12 percent of whom report incidents. Looking at these numbers, it’s obvious that this issue is wider spread than one would think. Although some blame is to be put on the universities, that doesn’t mean we don’t carry the burden as students to do our part.

Obama is calling upon the women and men of America to take a stance on the issue.

“I want every young man in America to feel some strong peer pressure in terms of how they are supposed to behave and treat women,” Obama said.

The president is also asking women to have the courage to speak up against these issues before and after they occur. However, it’s important to remember women are not alone in this fight. The White House reported that an estimated 22 million American women have been raped in their lifetime, along with 1.6 million men. Men and women need to come together in a joined effort to eliminate this terrible trend.

While the new task force is gaining national attention, it’s important to note that this isn’t the first move made to protect students from sexual assault and violence. Universities around the country, both public and private, have received federal complaints about how they handle and report sexual assault issues on campus. After University of California, Berkeley received a complaint last year, it was announced that Berkeley, UCLA California State University, Chico­ and our very own San Diego State would be audited this year regarding their sexual assault policies.

There was no specific reason given as to why Chico and SDSU were chosen for the “random audit,” but one might suspect it has something to do with the party reputations both these schools hold. The federal government will be looking through each school’s 2009-13 sexual assault history in order to determine if the proper procedures were followed, and to find areas for improvement.

Surprisingly, two other California schools–Occidental College and the University of Southern California–are also dealing with federal complaints about their handling of sexual assault issues. However, theses two institutions are not on the list of schools being audited this spring. Assembly member Anthony Rendon said that the audits are focused on public schools that receive state funding, according to the Huffington Post.

It seems odd that schools that have not received federal complaints are being audited, while two schools facing public criticism have been pardoned, simply because they are private institutions. If we are going to address this as a national issue, shouldn’t we be looking into the institutions that are accused of misconduct first and foremost?

[quote]As Aztecs we should be proud of our campus in every aspect, but we should also care the way our campus’ reputation is perceived.[/quote] Nothing has come of the audit yet, but the reports will be completed in April. As college students in general, we need to be making conscious efforts to eliminate negative stigmas and trends. As Aztecs we need to evaluate the reputation we hold as a school and address the stereotypes that we have been labeled with.

Let’s hope we can form a united front as a country to combat this issue, and that this task force is only needed temporarily to jumpstart the change. Our generation has the opportunity to set the standard for the future and to make sexual assault an issue of the past. We have reached a point in society where equality is at the forefront of our expectations, and sexual assault has no place here.