In light of the alleged sexual assault at Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, The Daily Nebraskan’s Editorial Board started crafting an editorial in response. Before we could publish it, another fraternity faced sexual assault allegations.
That leads us to ask — how many more sexual assaults need to occur before the university takes action?
By now, most everyone thinks they know the story. Reports of an alleged sexual assault at FIJI surfaced on Tuesday, Aug. 24, and by that night the fraternity was subject to campus-wide protests. Those protests continued for four consecutive days, and organizers plan to continue protesting until the university takes decisive action.
Here’s the problem. UNL’s track record of managing sexual assault on campus makes it impossible to believe that decisive action will take place. There’s more of a possibility the situation will be mismanaged, swept under the rug and repeated.
That cannot happen again.
To university administrators, we have a simple message: You have consistently failed at keeping your students safe. You have failed the community.
The events of last week are the latest in a long, long list of colossal administrative failures at combating sexual violence on campus.
In the past, the closest the university got to a sexual misconduct training — besides the one implemented in the spring — was in fall 2015 when students were strongly recommended to complete an online course. Less than 40% of students completed the training.
Between 1988 and 2001, there were speakers, conferences, a candlelit vigil and one other unrequired training put on by university groups at the time, according to Daily Nebraskan archives. There was no mention of required training for students on sexual misconduct before 2015.
Several alumni and past students — ranging from the past decade to the 1980s — have told The Daily Nebraskan they were never required to take sexual misconduct training.
While there is a fraternity-specific sexual assault prevention program called Husker Man, that program is run entirely through the Interfraternity Council and is not affiliated with the university.
The most recent training implemented in the spring was asynchronous, hidden behind a screen and filled with jokes that were insensitive to survivors of sexual assault or harrassment.
It supposedly had consequences for students who did not take it, but a university official in the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance confirmed these are “currently being developed” and the community will be “notified” once those have been completed.
Beyond reminder emails telling students they have not completed training, there are no consequences. There is no published record of how many students have completed the training. The university wasn’t able to provide concrete data on how many students took the training.
Several students have said they did not take the training; some didn’t even know about it. Those who did take it found issues with the training. Hey university, you think “U Got This?” U didn’t.
If the university took the time to both listen to students and look into best practices for sexual assault prevention training, it would be able to see a few common themes in what a better sexual assault prevention training would consist of. Beyond the extremely comprehensive and in-depth report that the Chancellor’s Collaborative created, there are a number of national guidelines and recommendation reports, including these reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the North Carolina Commission Against Domestic Violence.
If the university wants to make substantial changes to the rape culture on campus, they need to take these reports and students’ concerns into account.
While online training may be easier to facilitate, it is not the answer to preventing sexual assault on campus. Furthermore, the guidelines from these organizations echo what meta-analyses have concluded: these programs are most effective when they are in person, targeted towards the specific needs of the audience and run by properly trained staff.
The “U Got This!” training doesn’t address any of these issues. In fact, one of the biggest problems we noted with the training is that it was too broad and overly generic. Sexual assault prevention training works best when it is split into separate sections — ideally, split between men, women and LGBTQA+ individuals, with separate trainings specifically tailored to each group.
If a training is presented to a general audience, it runs the risk of either being insensitive to women’s specific needs and concerns when it comes to sexual assault or sending the men in the group the message that sexual assault is something that’s common and acceptable while trying to address women’s issues and validate the traumatic experiences that 13% of all college women go through.
The university announced and later formed a Campuswide Collaborative on Sexual Misconduct focused on reforms in late 2019. Faculty, staff and many students culminated this almost yearlong work into a report published online on Oct. 5, 2020, with 22 specific recommendations.
The report, labeled as “a roadmap for creating and maintaining a caring campus community,” includes recommendations for a Chancellor’s Commission on Sexual Misconduct — currently in the process of selecting members — and annual training for incoming faculty, staff and students. The collaborative also recommended a campus-wide sexual misconduct needs assessment and biennial climate survey.
While the university has adopted and promoted an affirmative consent policy and trained all employees involved in the Title IX process in trauma-informed care, there is still a long way to go. Some relatively simple recommendations are to include a statement on sexual misconduct in course syllabi, require trauma-informed training on sexual misconduct for key campus offices, programs and organizations and develop a clear description of avenues for reporting, investigating, hearing and appealing cases of sexual misconduct, all of which have yet to be implemented.
Last week, the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska held a town hall style meeting with Chancellor Ronnie Green and around 70 student leaders from recognized student organizations and Greek life. What did students get out of that meeting? An email with a video of Green telling boys that rape isn’t cool. Even with protests and that message, there was still an alleged sexual assault that night at Sigma Chi.
Simply put, the university’s efforts are not enough.
We’re glad ASUN and other student leaders got the chance to speak with Green, but nothing from that meeting has been made public. No change has occurred. What forum is being offered to sexual assault survivors? Whose voices deserve to be elevated?
With this in mind, here are some actions the university can take today to start holding itself accountable for the safety of this campus.
First, they can immediately publish how many students have completed the “mandated” training. Students need to know just how many of their peers have completed a training that, while as incomplete and flawed as we’ve described, is still one of the only educational resources put in place to prevent sexual violence.
Second, students need a voice. As demonstrated by the weeklong protests on campus — which university officials have yet to attend despite nightly calls for their support — students are fed up with the inaction and lack of help. Hundreds of students spent their first week of classes marching through the streets of campus and downtown, pleading with the university for safety, and the university’s leaders haven’t even shown up to listen.
Third, actually use student input to swiftly and effectively create stronger measures to end on-campus culture of sexual violence and rape. Replace the current training to better align with the goals of the Chancellor’s Collaborative and show greater respect and sensitivity to survivors of sexual violence. The university needs to hold mandatory, in-person sexual assault prevention training. They need to look people in the eye when they tell them not to sexually assault someone.
No more sweeping it under the rug and making empty promises.
In a similar vein to Chancellor Green’s comments last week: If you’re an administrator who somehow thinks this is enough — think again. It is unacceptable.