Opinions do not necessarily represent CUIndependent.com or any of its sponsors.
What did it take for the school administration to finally launch a website compiling all of CU’s prevention and response resources?
Was it the dismaying Austin Wilkerson “sentencing” of no jail time that came out last fall? Was it the recent Joe Tumpkin domestic abuse mishandling by the CU athletics department and Chancellor Phil DiStefano himself? Was it the racist graffiti — “KKK” and “Fuck colored people” — scrawled in bathroom stalls on campus last year? Or maybe the less-than-optimal results of the most recent campus climate survey which found that minority students did not feel welcome on campus?
CU announced on March 9 that it had launched the “Don’t Ignore It” website. Run by the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance, the website provides information on where the CU community should go to address issues of harassment, discrimination, abuse, assault and other ethical concerns. It also provides definitions of what is considered forms of sexual assault/abuse/harassment and explicitly states which classes of people are protected by the institution — this still includes gender identity.
While this resource is invaluable to strengthening the CU community’s response to issues of safety and well-being, it raises a couple concerns.
The first is, why now? One wouldn’t go through the effort of compiling this information if there wasn’t a serious problem to address. Mind you, this website was launched coincidentally on the heels of the Tumpkin scandal, so it is not a surprise that the second paragraph of the “What to Report” page has a reminder about what the responsibilities of staff as mandatory reporters include. Let us also not forget that CU was on the list of 55 schools being investigated by the Education Department in 2014 and even hired its own private investigators to conduct a review of CU’s Title IX compliance, though that review found no violations. Still, there have been several instances where students have sued the university for alleged mishandlings of sexual assault cases, most of which have ended in settlements ranging from thousands to millions of dollars.
The university has since added several support systems, but, like this website, they seem to be in response to shortcomings that have already been damaging to the campus community.
But this may just be a series of harsh accusations against an administration that says it is trying to do everything in its power to uphold integrity while protecting students. After all, responsibility does not solely fall on the administration to prevent such acts.
We might look to the students as, at least to some degree, blameworthy. Students are largely responsible for the instances of sexual misconduct on campus. It isn’t that we aren’t aware that, news flash, we shouldn’t rape our fellow Buffs, it is simply that perpetrators of such crimes don’t care. As more and more of these cases go either unreported, unsolved, unprosecuted or without justice, perhaps students have simply given up on taking action — we ignore it. And that’s an understated issue.
Given that, on the sexual misconduct survey from 2016, less that three quarters of students reported that they were aware of how to and where to go to report sexual misconduct, where did this important information get lost in transmission? Was it not sent or not seen?
The OIEC is basically calling students out for ignoring: “Here’s a website with everything you need to know in one place; stop being lazy, educate yourselves, you’re better than this.” OIEC has had these resources already, but maybe we weren’t accessing them. It probably wasn’t that they weren’t accessible, but that we didn’t care and aren’t taking the appropriate steps to prevent instances of sexual assault and discrimination. The Don’t Ignore It website even has a page on how to properly establish an effective “Buddy System.” This is a concept that even elementary school students have perfected on field trips to the zoo and for midnight outhouse runs during camping trips. Still, CU students need a refresher on how to stay safe during a night out and how to resolve conflicts like adults. Is this disregardable mockery or tragically necessary?
Perhaps the issue rests on the hazy delineation of responsibilities between the administration and the students. While students are largely responsible for the prevention of these incidents, the university has an obligation to ensure that, in the occasion that something does go awry, the affected students will be protected and justice restored.
Conjecture on the apathy of most students or the face-saving of the administration aside, Don’t Ignore It serves a vital function — to empower the campus community to take action against conduct that weakens our values as an institution.
This means something more though. Now that the university has made clear what it expects from students in preventing and addressing misconduct, the university now — more than ever — has to do its part.
Contact CU Independent Opinion Editor Hayla Wong at firstname.lastname@example.org.