in 500 words

by ibull

Received this email today.

Dear IU Student,

Earlier this month Provost Robel sent you a survey link you can use to share your perspective on how sexual assault affects our campus. As the Dean of Students at Indiana University, Bloomington, I wrote a week later to encourage your participation. I write now with a final request, to encourage you to help us eliminate the serious issue of sexual assault from our campus by clicking on the link below and completing this confidential survey. This survey will close on Tuesday, December 2.

The more input that we have from students, the better informed that we will be about creating a safe and caring environment on campus.   We need everyone’s response.  It all starts with you. …


Question 50:

In your own words, please tell us what you perceive to be the challenges in eliminating sexual misconduct at Indiana University: (Maximum of 500 words)

There are a broad range of bureaucratic systems in place that make the University a timely, efficient machine. Strict schedules & deadlines, separate & specialized departments, al a cart course offerings, to name a few. Students move through the system by paying for access and accruing grades for various courses. Many people within the University rationalize these mechanics—used to organize and represent what students are and are capable of—as “levelers,” as in, they level the playing field for students. They provide faculty and administrators with verifiable insight into the capabilities of every student. Herein, then, manifests the problem: The University is systematically designed to participate in an economic industry that would normally *discard defective products;* the University is designed neither to account for sexually active students, nor support traumatized students in the event of sexual misconduct.

It is when administrators are not allowed (usually, by the public) to objectify students as “butts in seats,” that everything about the University system breaks down. In fact, almost every metric by which we use to assess student behavior—both in form and capability—is unusable when they commit sexual misconduct or are victimized by sexual misconduct. There is no rubric, so to speak, that the University can use to account for personal responsibility and ethical behavior. Sex education—including knowledge on what constitutes as consensual sex—is something students were supposed to learn elsewhere, before they came to college. And yet, the University is tasked with evaluating students who have different understandings of what is and isn’t consensual sex. The challenge, here, is clearly a political one: University administrators have the power to require that students take existing classes from Women and Gender Studies, or, to create a required colloquium (managed by WGS) for students and faculty that establishes common ethical ground on sexual misconduct. These systematic changes won’t eliminate sexual misconduct on campus, but they will establish a common ethic by which third-party evaluators can address questions of consent and conduct.

The only people who can eliminate the practice of sexual misconduct on campus are perpetrators—not University administrators or representatives. But, University administrators can change how the University operates so that it ceases to punish/re-victimize people involved in sexual misconduct. The University can excuse those students from the courses in which they are enrolled and offer them with credit to re-take those classes in the future, free of charge. The University can advocate for changes to policy in federal aid packages that punish some students for taking time away from school. The University can offer parties involved in sexual misconduct with free access to counseling, psychological and other medical services. The University should—in fact, it already does—model an ethical response to trauma. By restructuring the institutional response in a way that recognizes how sexual misconduct affects a member’s ability to be in the community, the University can begin to redefine how it participates in the repair of community members and spaces when sexual misconduct occurs.

janeway 13