EDITORIAL: U. must eliminate sexual misconduct

Students should be encouraged to report uncomfortable incidents

The relatively recent ousting of Harvey Weinstein as a sexual abuser has been followed by an incredible movement, bringing up a new and important conversation about sexual harassment in the United States. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, it seems that sexual misconduct may be just as prevalent in academic settings as it is in every other field. More than 10 cases of Rutgers professors and administrators sexually harassing, assaulting or coercing students have been reported to an anonymous Google Spreadsheet, which aims to address the issue of sexual harassment in academia head-on and give victims a comfortable way to report their experiences anonymously. The spreadsheet lays out the circumstances of approximately 2,000 different instances of sexual misconduct on college campuses across the country. 

What the spreadsheet evidently fails to do, though, is provide any practical means of solving the issue of sexual misconduct on college campuses — it merely offers a place for alleged victims to state their situations. While it is clear that this spreadsheet acts as a place for victims to get things off of their chests without any unwanted consequences and to read the posts of others in similar situations, most of the instances posted lack detail, fail to name a perpetrator and have been admittedly unreported to authorities. The new national conversation regarding sexual assault and harassment is a huge step for our nation and will likely result in a much needed impetus for societal change, but without specific stories with specific perpetrators, real change will come much too slowly. With all of these victims beginning to peak out of their shells, it is time to take this newfound bravery to the next step — speak up when it happens. 

There have been issues in the past with students who are victims of sexual assault on campus being essentially ignored or brushed off by their universities, such as what happened with the student at Columbia University who carried her mattress around to voice her disapproval with the university’s decision on her sexual assault case, or former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner’s lenient “slap on the wrist” after he forced himself upon an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. With that said, Rutgers has a well laid out policy regarding sexual misconduct on campus that requires “prompt, fair and impartial investigation and resolution of allegations of sexual assault, stalking, dating violence and domestic violence.” Students are able to fill out a confidential Sexual Harassment, Sexual Violence, Relationship Violence, Stalking and Related Misconduct Report that the administration will undoubtedly take seriously now more than ever. This is where students who experience these assaults need to discuss them. By reporting these experiences to the University soon after they happen, one may be able to prevent the professor in question from doing the same thing to any other people. 

In order to go about solving the issue of sexual misconduct at Rutgers, the University needs to implement a more thorough and mandatory procedure or system that encourages students to speak up when a professor makes them feel uncomfortable, and that ensures students that their stories are taken seriously. After news about the spreadsheet broke, Rutgers’ Department of Human Resource Management sent an email to all University employees mandating that they take part in an online information session regarding the issue of sexual misconduct. This is no doubt a good start, but students should also be more thoroughly informed with regard to these issues and what they can do if they experience sexual advancements by University authority figures, such as how to report an instance of sexual misconduct. 

Professors, especially male professors, are now likely much more wary about their behavior around students of the opposite sex as a result of the recent flood of allegations, regardless of if they would have ever engaged in such misconduct. While seeing students begin to gain the courage to come out against abusers in positions of power is encouraging, it is not productive to discourage true and genuine professor-student mentorship. Male professors should not be afraid to aid or mentor female students, even in a professional manner, for fear of being accused of sexual misconduct, as this will only work to defeat the purpose of equality in academia. 


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 149th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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