—————– UPDATE —————–
When Rolling Stone published the article about rape culture at UVA, I talked to several faculty, administrators and alumni. While reactions varied from sadness, anger and helplessness – one thing was consistent – no one was shocked.
Everyone I spoke with felt that UVA had been sweeping the issue of sexual violence under the rug for years. Policies were in place to protect the school’s reputation over the safety of the students. The culture of “misogyny and entitlement,” as one former faculty member phrased it, had been deeply engrained in the school’s culture.
And the culture of many other colleges all over the country.
The fact that Rolling Stone didn’t practice due diligence and “backed off” the article is appalling. I fear that it trivializes the claims of other rape victims, and discourages them from coming forward. While Jackie’s story got the headline, there were many other accounts of sexual violence outlined in the article. Many more women were brave enough to speak out about their assaults after reading the piece. 1 in 4 women on college campuses are victims of sexual violence, and many universities are not set up to support them and prevent further violations. That is what advocates like myself are asking for.
In Teresa Sullivan’s response to the Rolling Stone apology, the UVA President said,
Over the past two weeks, our community has been more focused than ever on one of the most difficult and critical issues facing higher education today: sexual violence on college campuses. Today’s news must not alter this focus.
I could not agree more.
We don’t know the exact details of Jackie’s story. But if you think that questions about the specifics of that one night, that one woman, change anything — you are not paying attention.
I love you.
Half of my wardrobe is orange and blue. My car is covered in your stickers and my dog often sports a UVA collar.
I started undergrad at UVA at the age of 28. I was a high school drop out with a GED, no life experience outside of acting in movies, and a deep desire to learn. The day I graduated, in 2010 at the age of 32, was the proudest day of my life. You accepted me, you gave me a nurturing, safe place to spend four years.
At least, for me it was safe.
For many other women, it is not.
The recent Rolling Stone article, A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA, has made some things very clear. Some horrible things. About the prevalence of misogyny and entitlement, of rape and abuse, of victims being silenced, of administrators sweeping accusations under the rug.
It must stop. Now.
I had never been proud of anything in my life before I went to UVA. I never felt proud of my film career or that I bought a house when I was 15 years old. But I was immensely proud to be part of a community that valued honor and learning. I was proud to wear my orange and blue. I wrote a memoir, which will be published next summer, and it ends as a love letter to you, UVA.
But I’m ashamed of my association with you now. I’m ashamed that this culture has been allowed to fester. I’m ashamed that the response to the assaults and rapes has been tepid.
But you can change this. Now.
April Wimberley has written a Change.org petition that outlines administrative changes that need to be made, as a first step to combat this culture of rape. Obviously, this is not simply an administrative issue, but the college needs to make it clear that these actions will not be tolerated. Suspending fraternities for the holidays won’t cut it.
The blame lies primarily with the perpetrators, but you have the power to stand up and say that this will be brought to light. We are not the only college that faces this issue – but we can be the one that faces it the best.
So, here’s the deal. If there is not significant administrative response to this issue, along the lines of the demands outlined on Change.org in place by the time the students return from winter break on January 12th – I will burn my diploma.
Anyone else who feels compelled to join me is welcome.
I know that as an institution, you are freaked out right now. But you need to lead us. You need to give us a reason to be proud of UVA again. You need to give us a reason to not want to burn our diplomas.
I cannot bear to look at my diploma from an institution that chooses to protect its reputation over its students. I will sacrifice what is precious to me, in an attempt to bring about a greater social good.
I will burn the only thing I’ve ever been proud of.
I love you, UVA. But my love, though deep, is not unconditional.
UVA alumna, class of 2010.
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