Gina Vaynshteyn
May 14, 2013 4:00 am

I’m pretty disheartened by hearing about schools, towns and people attempting to muffle a serious and devastating issue that has been prevalent in our culture since people figured out they could do unspeakable things to each other and possibly get away with it. Oh yeah, that would be the dawn of time. Sexual harassment and violence have occurred within educational institutions numerous amounts of times, and in response, there have been cases, trials and lawsuits because not only only are some people evil, but the institutions themselves have failed to do anything about it, making them pretty evil, as well.

Occidental College, a private liberal arts school located in Los Angeles, has recently had some problems with how they responded (or rather, didn’t respond) to students who were found completely guilty of sexual misconduct. Six young women who were either graduates or current students were raped and college authorities failed to take action. These women were then forced to seek out lawyers, where they “also accused Occidental College authorities of either being callously indifferent to their complaints or [tried] to dissuade them from pursuing the matter with police” (Highlandpark-MountWashingtonPatch).

One of the students that was found guilty was merely instructed to apologize to the victim and resign from their leadership positions on campus. The sexual assailants who were found guilty of multiple acts of sexual harassment/rape were expelled until the victims graduated. Wow. That will sure show them!

Not only did the college fail to aid these women and seek justice, but Occidental allegedly did not document the sexual assaults in the time the Clery Act asks for. Essentially, if any kind of crime occurs on campus, the school has to report it within a certain time frame. Occidental didn’t follow this protocol back in the 2010-2011 school year when this all started.

Since the school was not properly responding to the heinous acts that occurred, a group of 37 students, faculty and alumni filed a federal complaint against the school this past April, stating that the college was not disciplining the guilty students, and that it “created a hostile climate for sexual assault victims and violated federal mandates under the Title IX, a non-discrimination law” (Huffington Post).

Does it really take a legal complaint for a college to realize they are not protecting their students from sexual assault? Why should it take a group of activists to spur action? I understand that it must be embarrassing for colleges and universities to admit to the fact that some of their students are guilty of such horrible things, but covering up the problem and ignoring it completely is just  extenuating rape, sexual harassment, and sexual violence.

The Education Department will be looking into the claims that Occidental employees and students have made and should legally protect the individuals who are participating in the investigation.

This is a nationwide problem and it has happened before, again and again. The fact that so many institutions shy away from taking extreme measures for extreme problems is troubling, because it could a) deter victims away from speaking out and b) allude to light or non-existent consequences for sexual assailants. Schools must band together and truly enforce this zero-tolerance policy; the problem is that I’m not sure why they have not already.

Featured image via The New York Times

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