Finally, Binghamton University has started up again. Although we are still at the tail end of the coronavirus pandemic, I along with thousands of other students are grateful to be back on campus. It’s good to see the bright new faces of freshmen and the familiar features of upperclassmen. But, along with the class of 2024, something else has entered our home away from home: a heightened awareness. Awareness that was brought to us by the creation of an Instagram page toward the beginning of our break. The account @shareyourstorybing has published over 800 posts containing experiences written by survivors and witnesses of sexual harassment and assault. With this, BU joins hundreds of other campuses across the country in a fight against the rampant cases of sexual assault. According to a survey by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), among undergraduate students, about 23 percent of females and five percent of males on a college campus will be victims of sexual assault during their time at the school. On the 2020 Sex Survey issued by Pipe Dream, 173 students indicated they had been assaulted at Binghamton.
In response to these posts and statistics, the University released a new set of standards to help report and prevent sexual assault. These include hiring sexual assault advisers, reviewing the Student Code of Conduct for students and creating a Title IX Council to discuss cases . While these are mostly helpful, one of the newest policies, number nine of their 12-point plan, is very concerning. It states that the University will suspend any organizations, i.e. Greek life, club sports or clubs, who are connected in any way to a sexual assault case. This will be followed with an open investigation that may lead to permanent removal. This may seem like a good idea, but the more you dive into it, it’s clear that this is a way for BU to sweep their problems under the rug and ignore people in need.
To start, if an organization, particularly a fraternity or sorority, is removed from campus in order to conduct a sexual assault investigation, more people will be at risk. According to statistics released by the @shareyourstorybing Instagram, out of the 138 allegations against fraternities, more than half of them were off campus or unrecognized fraternities. There were also multiple reports about off-campus sororities and their members. Since these happen off campus and have no connection to the regulated Greek life on campus, the University does nothing to punish these organizations as a whole. There have been talks of punishing individuals for joining these off-campus groups, but nothing has been finalized. In summary, simply shoving organizations off campus is just a way for the University to ignore the problem at hand. This policy may also deter victims from reporting in fear of being blamed for an organization’s removal. Although initial investigations can remain anonymous, names of those involved will be included in final reports before removal of recognition. In other words, the victims name would be released.
Revealing a sexual assault survivor’s name can be both scary and traumatic to the survivor, as they may be attacked or harassed for coming forward. Furthermore, victim blaming is still a large issue in our culture, which only further prevents those who are suffering from coming forward. It has been shown time and time again that survivors, especially women, are often shamed for the assault and are accused of causing their own victimization because of their clothing choices, intoxication and social actions. In addition, if a survivor could be blamed by others for an entire group being removed from campus, they may never find the courage to report. This narrative is particularly noteworthy in the Greek life community. If a fraternity was removed from campus due to an assault investigation, the victim may even be harassed by members they once saw as friends. Overall, this is yet another way for the University to push away the problem and ignore survivors.
Ultimately, the way BU is handling these reports is inadequate. These action will not solve the problem, they will only make it less detectable. The issues of sexual violence in college have been around for years, and the administration have only started trying now because of the influx of statements. I know that we, as a community, can solve this problem, but only if all of us, including those in charge, truly make a stand, punish the individuals responsible and lay a solid foundation to prevent assault and harassment in the future. I hope to one day live in a world where this will no longer be an issue, but for now we need to take a stand and force our University to do so as well.
Nicolette Cavallaro is a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience.