Joe Biden praises Rutgers for its commitment to preventing sexual assault

The former vice president discussed Title IX, Harvey Weinstein and the current college generation changing the future

The gymnasium was colored red Tuesday afternoon as members of the University community gathered to welcome former Vice President Joe Biden to campus for the “It’s On Us” rally.

Biden abruptly shocked students across campus two weeks ago when he announced that he would be visiting Rutgers to speak out against sexual violence and assault.

More than 2,000 students stood in a line wrapped around the College Avenue Student Center and were allowed inside the gymnasium for the rally.

The growing "It's On Us" movement was launched in 2014 following the recommendations of the White House Task Force to Prevent Sexual Assault. Biden started the campaign with former President Barack Obama.

"I care a lot about this. People wonder if my passion is a consequence of my mother being abused, or my sister or daughter ... it's not," he said. "It's because of my father. My dad was a gentle, honorable man ... He said the greatest sin of all was the abuse of power. And then he'd say the cardinal sin was for a man to raise his hand to a woman or child. Sexual assault is not about sex. It's about power."

Biden took the time to express his disgust with the recent allegations of sexual assault against mega-producer Harvey Weinstein, though he did not comment on the University's decision to keep the $100,000 donation to the school from the Weinstein Family Foundation.

He said Weinstein deserves more than losing his company.

"(He is) a man who had the power to make or break the career of a number of very talented actors," he said. "But because of the bravery of so many courageous women speaking up, putting their careers still at risk to save other women, this disgusting behavior, at least on the part of Harvey Weinstein, has been brought to an abrupt and justifiable end."

But Biden has been a known fighter of sexual violence for decades, and his work did not just start with the "It's On Us" campaign. 

He said it was because of men like Weinstein that he first introduced the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the United States Congress on June 20, 1990, as then-senator of Delaware.

"When I wrote the legislation I provided funding for shelters, women's shelters," Biden said. "I was accused of setting up nothing more than indoctrination centers for feminists."

Following University President Robert L. Barchi's commitment to enforcing Title IX rules and regulations after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rolled back sexual assault protections, Biden praised Rutgers as a whole for fighting to put an end to sexual violence.

Referring to the Department of Education, Biden said, "They didn't confuse your chancellor. They didn't confuse this university. When this guidance was revoked, (Barchi) said 'our commitment will not waver.'"

Biden left with a challenge for Rutgers students. He said the current generation has already changed the culture of the United States, but must continue to do so.

"I promise you, if you keep at this when your daughter is dropped off at a college campus in her freshman year, your first thought as a parent will not be, 'is she going to be safe?' Look what your generation has already taken in. You are the most progressive, tolerant, decent and well-educated generation in history," he said. "That's just a fact."

Alexandra DeMatos is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies and women's and gender studies. She is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter  @dematosaa  for more.

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