Amherst College has banned fraternities — never thought I’d see the day. But see the New York Times’ article on fraternities: “Numerous studies show that members of Greek organizations drink more heavily than other students, and alcohol abuse is strongly tied to other forms of misconduct.”
One student at Northwestern was quoted as saying, “I got very jaded because of the way certain frats handled rush, focusing on alcohol and girls too much.” That’s the equivalence that I find disturbing — one that’s so prevalent these days — that somehow there’s an equivalence between objects of consumption like alcohol and “girls.”
This makes me so incredibly angry. If any other group was singled out for this kind of violence, wouldn’t there be some outcry? This is an overwhelming sea of violence and sorrow: http://whenwomenrefuse.tumblr.com/page/3.
In the wake of the violence in Santa Barbara this past weekend, media are doing that thing where they rush to figure out causes and prevention methods. How do mentally ill people predisposed to violence continue to get guns? How can we prevent suicide/mass shootings or at least reduce the risk of their taking place? How do we recognize elevated risk factors and intervene?
Getting weapons out of the hands of violent people seems to be the way to go, but it’s also worth discussing the role that misogyny plays in these forms of mass violence. The vast majority of men who suffer from mental illness don’t commit suicide/mass shootings. Most men who drink don’t rape women. These behaviors don’t come out of nowhere — they aren’t invented out of thin air, but are expressions of cultural practices and moments.
College, Elliott Rodgers said in his video, should be a time for men to have “sex, fun, and pleasure.” When, I wonder, did college become a kind of rumspringa for privileged mainly white men, who believe that they are entitled to unlimited sex, fun, and pleasure and that these things, moreover, are somehow their right?
These kinds of ideas drive the party culture on college campuses — a culture facilitated by sports, the Greek system and college administrations. This culture creates “party pathways” whose cost is high in terms of alcoholism, sexual assault, street harassment, and debt, as Elizabeth A. Armstrong and Laura T. Hamilton illustrate in Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality. These party pathways are also grounded in misogyny — in silencing women who have been injured by this culture (and sororities play a very powerful role in doing this) and fostering conditions in which hatred of, and violence against, women can flourish.
I haven’t written about what’s been going on at UO, partly because I’m too close to it, partly because I’m still thinking things through. Long story short, a group of feminist faculty have been meeting on and off for over five months — prior to that groups of us as well as individuals had been expressing concerns about campus climate for at least three years. But then a gang rape was reported here in the beginning of May and between the media attention and the dismal, arrogant response from UO administrators, it’s been a very disheartening and heartbreaking month.
Before all this happened, though, I was corresponding with some folks about the availability of and prevalence of rape drugs on campus. Being empirically minded, I don’t know if it’s true that there have been dramatic increases in the use of these drugs. There’s also a danger in overlooking the ways in which alcohol is used to render potential victims compliant (think those nasty punches served at parties that those throwing the party don’t drink — those punches are intended for inexperienced drinkers, mostly young women, and there’s nothing hospitable about providing those beverages). And then there’s also the problem of suggesting that women who are not drugged are somehow less worth victims than those who were drugged. After all, sexual assault can’t be “a problem in communication” if one person isn’t conscious.
So those are important caveats. But having said that, why aren’t universities encouraging survivors to test their hair if they believe they were drugged? Hair tests don’t test for marijuana, but they do test for illicit drugs (including those considered “rape drugs”). Plus, they aren’t invasive and you can test for up to six months after the assault, providing hair hasn’t been cut. Check out this interesting thesis about hair testing for illicit drugs: http://www.usna.edu/IR/htmls/lead/database/cohort6/c06_hatala.pdf. And ask your campus police department if they use these in their investigations. See also this bibliography, which was provided to me by an attorney who works extensively with survivors of sexual violence: http://www.criminology.fsu.edu/journal/mcbaybib3.pdf.
In a first, a University of Oregon Crime Alert gave specific information about a campus crime: “In one incident, a report alleged that a female UO student was drugged at the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, 1886 University Street, on May 10. Giving someone a drug to disable the person is aggravated assault, a felony crime.”
These crime alerts are mandated by the Clery Act in order to alert campus communities to threats to public safety. Researchers on campus have been working with the UO Police Department to improve these alerts, which have gone from victim-blaming, stranger danger alerts to those sent around today, which included the drugging and a sexual assault.
It’s about time.
Now, let’s see if the Eugene Police Department is investigating the drugging.
I was just about to delete this from a presentation I’m giving at a conference, but thought it was worth sharing (hard won knowledge, I should add): If you are lucky enough to land a tenure-stream job this year, do yourself a favor. Don’t canvass faculty about tenure criteria that are ipso facto vague because they’ll say things like, “Well, it depends on the quality” or “Sometimes one frequently cited essay can count for x additional essays” or “we hate to put a number on it.”
Instead, ask your department chair if they will share the CVs of the last four faculty members who were tenured in the department (providing they were tenured within the last 5-7 years). What did they have in terms of publications when they went up for tenure? Do you get the sense that these cases considered “slam dunk” or were they contested? Ask the faculty members themselves about their experiences. This will give you a better idea of what the department considers worthy of tenure than almost anything else.