After a flier listing the “Top Ten Ways To Get Away With Rape” was found in a men’s bathroom in a co-ed dormitory at Miami University of Ohio, did the university notify all students about a frankly disturbing incident?
No, as the Columbus Dispatch says. As a result, “students, their parents and campus leaders across Ohio” have been outraged and Miami University has found itself making headlines for reasons other than being the alma mater of Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
The flyer was actually found the weekend before last. As the Cincinnati Enquirer reported on Saturday, some of the “ways” listed on the flyer included slipping roofies into women’s drinks, targeting women who walk alone and sneaking into women’s unlocked rooms and slitting their throats if one is afraid they will talk. The tenth tip is even more abhorrent, if that is possible: It reads “RAPE, RAPE, RAPE, its (sic) college boys live it up!!”
This is frankly ugly stuff. So it is all the more disappointing to learn that Miami University officials dragged their feet to respond. Barbara Jones, Miami University’s vice president for student affairs, said in USA Today that no campus-wide alert was at first sent out because they did not think the flyer contained an immediate threat. “All of our evidence shows it was confined strictly to McBride Hall,” Jones says, referring to the dormitory in which the flyer was found.
All the male students in McBride Hall have been summoned to attend a mandatory meeting and the university is undertaking an investigation. Police presence has also been increased and Jones insists that the university is serious about campus safety. “I read the flier. I was shocked. It has no place on our campus or any other campus,” she says in USA Today.
Of course. But the fact that someone thought it was all right to post a flyer containing language so violent and demeaning towards women more than suggests that at least some members of Miami University’s community think that it is all right to say and think such things. It suggests that there is a culture on the campus that tacitly condones misogynistic attitudes.
As Kate Van Fossen, a junior at the university who is the vice president of Women Against Violence and Sexual Assault (WAVE), says in the Cincinnati Enquirer, “It could have been a joke, but the fact of the matter is that those thoughts are crossing someone’s mind. There are girls living in a hall where someone came up with that. It’s just disturbing.” Indeed, Van Fossen also said that, had she not been a member of WAVE, she would not have learned about the incident. The university erred in not alerting all students, not to mention faculty and staff across the campus, and thereby sent the message that such remarks and behavior are allowed and tolerated.
Van Fossen notes that, even if the flyer was meant as a joke, it is still highly disturbing, especially at a university at which 27 sexual assaults were reported between 2009 and 2011.
Miami University officials’ fumbling in handling this incident is simply disappointing. It is also a stark reminder of why we need to keep up the pressure on educational institutions to educate students and their communities that violence against women, and violent attitudes and language against women, are never tolerated. University officials can never do enough to foster and nurture a campus culture that is safe and welcoming for women and certainly, one would hope, in a place like a co-ed dormitory.
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