Dear Administration: Protect your students. Sincerely, Me.

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This was my email to President Susan Herbst (president@uconn.edu) after hearing about how the writer of an interesting and thought-provoking piece on the administration’s rebranding mission was threatened by both UConn and non-UConn students alike.

I’m a UConn Honors Program & CLAS ’12 alum. I know you are probably inundated with hundreds if not thousands of emails a day, but I hope you take the time to read and respond to them. It has recently come to my attention that a thoughtful open letter written by a current student has been reposted with malicious intent to skew her words, leading to violent and quite credible threats against her. Although I am no longer a UConn student, I am very concerned about the image that this is giving UConn. I am proud of my degree and, in my position as a high school teacher, have encouraged my students to think about and attend UConn for a quality education, but as of right now, I couldn’t be more ashamed of the connection. 

The fact that this young woman is being attacked by UConn students and non-UConn students alike and that this has not been addressed by your administration yet is disappointing to me. This lack of action is proving the premise of her letter–that the actions of the administration and the university implies that you care more about certain aspects of the university (athletics) than you care about the well-being of every individual member of the student body.

And that is reprehensible.

<Updated: Here is the response I received, which, being rather formulaic, says nothing at all:

I firmly believe that our students, like all people, should be able to express themselves without being insulted or degraded as a result. As an institution, the university takes these issues very seriously, supports the right of free speech among all members of our community and stands strongly against harassment or intimidation of any kind. When a student is subjected to harassment, the university works closely with him or her to provide any resources they may need.

For additional information, please find UConn’s policy on harassment here, information on sexual violence awareness here and the student code of conduct here.>

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Sometimes society makes me sad.

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I just read this article here about a 17-year-old survivor of a sexual assault who could be facing jail time/fines for Tweeting the names of her attackers and violating a court order that said that she was to keep their names confidential. And I am very, very, upset about that.

I understand that for juvenile offenders, the inclination is to be forgiving and to say that sometimes, it’s an error in judgment that they shouldn’t be held accountable for “youthful indiscretions” their entire life. But sexually assaulting someone, not to mention disseminating photos of it, is not a “youthful indiscretion.” I’m not sure how old the boys are, and the details of their plea agreement are not available to the public, but I think that they should be held accountable for their actions. I can’t believe that we live in a society where it was even an option to have a court order that forbade the releasing of their names. Studies have shown that on colleges, at least, 9 out of 10 rapes are committed by repeat offenders. That means that it’s highly unlikely that the two assaulters just “made a mistake” and are really “good people.”

And even on that note, it bothers me how when it comes to sexual violence, our society concerns itself more with the perpetrators than the survivors. Earlier this week, a friend of mine posted this image, which I think really highlights what goes on.

This is a perfect example on how victim blaming works in society.

I’d like to bring your attention to this line: “Tell me, do you really want to ruin his life because of your mistake?” And more often than not, that’s the case. XYZ couldn’t have raped someone because he’s a “good guy.” Eff that. Only a small percentage of men rape, and most importantly, most of those start off in their late teens. Most men, even if given the opportunity to do so, would not rape. Doesn’t that tell you something? It’s not an issue of mistakes and misunderstandings. It’s a serious, egregious crime that is not taken as seriously as it needs to be.

Addendum: So another friend of mine asked me about the details of this case. They are pretty limited, but here are some other things that I found. The boys were convicted of 1st degree sexual abuse, which in Kentucky is defined as forced sexual contact (among other things, but this one seems to be the most likely) and misdemeanor voyeurism. Also, according to the original article, she wasn’t even aware of the plea agreement until it was declared in court, and she’s stated that she does not believe that whatever sentencing the boys received is fair.

Addendum x2: As of a ridiculously early morning on 7/24/12, I found this article saying that the contempt charges have been dropped.