Lack of respect is a growing concern on campus that affects students, faculty and the greater academic community. Students bully each other online and leave hurtful comments on anonymous gossip sites. Others send text messages or surf the Internet in class and during guest speaker presentations.
Now, recent reports of sexual assault and violence at the University have attracted the attention of the administration and faculty, prompting the formation of several committees and movements to address the issue of our declining campus climate.
Despite of the attention the issue has garnered, we ask whether the University’s response is effective enough.
In response to the high number of sexual assault incidences, the University has implemented initiatives at the administrative and student levels. This month, President John Bravman announced the formation of a Campus Climate Task Force. The Interfraternity Council issued its Declaration Denouncing Sexual Assault. Many students joined a Facebook group entitled “Movement4Manner,” and others participated in this year’s Take Back the Night / March for a Better Bucknell. Meanwhile, the Women’s Resource Center and V-Day Bucknell have been working continuously to prevent and stop violence on campus.
While we applaud the efforts, we believe many students still do not take the issue of sexual assault seriously. At the March for a Better Bucknell, some students complained about how pointless the event was. These students do not realize how big of a problem sexual assault is on campus. In 2008, The Bucknellian reported that the number of reported sexual assaults had increased during the fall semester, but that many reported cases go unpublished in the Public Safety Log. Assaults have persisted since, as indicated by the 2009 sexual assault survey conducted by faculty and students at the University.
Moreover, even though the event may not dissuade people from performing sexual assault, its turnout should show support for victims of violence on campus. It should also reiterate the importance of respect.
Still, showing support may not be enough to end the violence. The disparity between thought and action remains large. It is one thing for students to sign the wall “for a better Bucknell” in the Elaine Langone Center and an entirely different matter for students to actually implement change. Similarly, signing a declaration to not tolerate sexual assault or wearing an “I (Heart) Consensual Sex” button to promote a message is different than truly reforming behavior.
What we need is a change in mindset that no committee or movement can accomplish alone. Students on and off campus must learn to treat each other as human beings. We need a culture in which non-alcoholic events are at least viable, if not superior, alternatives to partying and drinking. We need a culture of basic respect—of body, of mind and of each other.
The efforts in response to sexual assault and violence have good intentions and are fairly ambitious, but they are only the first step. In order to enact real improvements in our campus climate, we need students to change fundamentally their mindset and truly commit to change.