Since the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, people throughout the nation have banded together in their collective frustration of the Trump administration. Millions armed with clever signage and standing shoulder-to-shoulder have taken to the streets to march and rally in an effort to ensure that fundamental rights and liberties are protected.
Campuses nationwide have channeled this spirit, playing host to student demonstrations. USC is not absent from this phenomenon, finding its activist voice after historically sitting on the sidelines in comparison to its institutional counterparts.
Yet, in light of the findings in the Daily Trojan’s Spring 2017 supplement on Tuesday, it is clear that there is one movement that has lost momentum: activism against sexual assault. But it shouldn’t be this way, as activism to prevent sexual assault and expand campus resources works concurrently with the larger social issues that students are already demonstrating against.
And despite the University’s effort to “chase zero” sexual assaults, it is clear that much work remains. On April 1, a sexual assault was reported at Fluor Tower. As the alleged perpetrator, Armaan Premjee, awaits trial, students should be reminded that the fight to end sexual assault on campus requires a more nuanced, dedicated fight.
In 2013, campus advocates identified the necessary conversation the 2013 federal Title IX investigation created among students. That seed planted by campus advocates was instrumental to the administration’s response. Since the start of the investigation, USC has adopted education programs, established online portals on the topic, assembled task forces and created dialogue between students.
That should have been just the seed. Instead, according to Vice President of Student Affairs Ainsley Carry, sexual assault activism has stalled in the years since the investigation started. Student interest has waned, and conversation has withered.
“I want to get back to the days when students were banging down my door saying, ‘Let’s do something to end sexual misconduct on our campus’ — I miss it,” Carry said. “I really want students to get fired up about this again. I don’t want this to become, ‘Oh, that was important in 2013’ — until we get to zero, this is still important.”
In order to get back to that vitality, we must expand our understanding of campus sexual assault and what needs to be done. Our supplement spotlighted areas in which the University still needs to make strides.
To receive a forensic exam, victims of sexual assault are directed to the Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center, which, while providing extensive and world-class trauma care, is 45 minutes away — simply too far for many survivors. The Daily Trojan spoke to students exploring the feasibility of bringing rape evidence collection kits to campus. It’s an effort that all members of the USC community should look into — though the treatment center’s precision and expertise cannot be replicated, the distance between USC and Santa Monica does act as a deterrent. Students must advocate for a treatment center that is geographically closer and enables survivors to care for themselves with as much ease as possible.
Annother issue is that student-athletes are six times more likely to commit sexual assault than other students at the University. Violence is endemic to sports culture. As students attending a university with an elite sports program, we have a responsibility to have the difficult conversations to remove attitudes of entitlement and hold our student-athletes accountable, despite their celebrity. And this includes making sure that after convicted athletes are expelled from this institution, justice continues to be served.
Other barriers for survivors arise when students feel uneasy with the Title IX process. Responses to Title IX cases may take longer than the 60 days that the federal government recommends as the length of a typical investigation. The Title IX office needs more staff and resources to ensure that investigators are able to dedicate the appropriate time and energy to each case. And since understaffing impedes the offices from closing a case in the recommended amount of time, a prolonged investigation may prohibit a survivor from moving on from their trauma.
Students should be fighting for these changes. It is admirable — but not enough — that students now undergo consent training when they matriculate to USC. We are all aware that sexual assault happens on all college campuses, USC included. But we are not all aware that the sexual assault response system at USC still needs marked improvement.
When the Daily Trojan titled its Spring 2017 supplement “Chasing Zero,” we meant it. We should not settle for a culture that allows sexual assault in any form. We want students to galvanize around this issue — to advocate for better resources and to change the toxic and predatory culture that still robs young Trojans of their agency. And we want to see them chase zero — to organize, to fight, to make greater efforts to expose and understand the complex issues surrounding sexual assault on a college campus, until USC’s reporting rates reach zero.
Daily Trojan Spring 2017 Editorial Board