Drastic but Warranted Measures

Borb Hankes, Staff Writer

Something must be done.

There is, was, and has been a dramatic failure at Juniata College in the attempt to reduce the number of sexual assaults and harassments on campus. It must be said. The attempts made by the administration are laudable; they have recognized the problem and responded by incorporating consent education into freshman orientation and encouraging student-run events that support survivors and reporters. A commendable effort, but it is evident that the top-down approach is insufficient.

In the fall semester alone, the sexual assault report rate tripled from the previous year. Also in the fall semester, there were more total sexual assaults reported at Juniata than at Penn State, a college with 22 times as many undergraduates alone.

This is, frankly, unacceptable.

I should not have to worry about my friends’ safety every weekend, let alone every night. I shouldn’t have grown used to the idea that enjoying my weekend outside of my dorm, even completely sober, involves incredible risk. I shouldn’t be warily thankful that I have enough fingers to count the number of people I have met this year who have been assaulted this year. I should not have to keep in mind the names and faces of assaulters who walk with no punishment, no reprimand, and no remorse.

There should be none.

I have been told that it is impossible to absolutely eradicate sexual assault on a college campus. There is nothing more despicable to me than the rejection of progress because of an inability to obtain perfection. It is an excuse from the lazy, or worse, apathetic, that encourages the vile. There is no sense in rejecting tangible improvements because you cannot have more of them. Don’t strangle the bird in your hand because you cannot have the two in the bush.

In short, try.

Any reduction of sexual assaults has a lasting benefit on the lives of students and the health of our community.

The students have recognized this issue, and as a result there are numerous student groups that are doing their damndest to make people feel safer. Many clubs have stepped up to the plate, and I applaud their work. Together we are helping to make Juniata a friendlier place.

But it is not there yet.

The Juniata community has achieved a dangerous façade. Officially, the college is trenchantly inclusive and vehemently opposes discrimination and abuse. And, certainly, it has made progress where other institutions have not. But the reality is that the college does not do enough to keep its students safe from harassment and abuse. There are no two ways about it.

The problem has become so deeply ingrained in student body’s psyche that they are no longer outraged – they don’t have the energy. The horror of watching friends shrivel into themselves and hearing stories of casually life-scarring events has surrounded them to such a degree that they have almost grown accustomed to it. This is unacceptable. Something must be done. I’m not going to lie and say I know the answer. If it was simple enough that I could figure it out, it would have been implemented already. But I do know that action is necessary. Drastic times call for drastic measures. The safety of students is paramount. If it takes a dramatic increase of RA and JCPS presence to ensure a campus that we can be proud of enjoying, then so be it. Under normal circumstances, I would reject the idea as antithetical to the freedom that Juniata prides itself on – but these are not normal circumstances. This is abominable. This is catastrophic.

This is unacceptable.

We as a community must demand change. We will not settle until every student feels safe at this campus. We will take the steps necessary to make the Juniata College experience what is promises to be. And we ask that President Troha joins us in this movement by establishing effective bottom-up solutions to this epidemic.

We are not safe until all of us are safe. We are not free until all of us are free. We are not equal until all of us are equal. And we are not happy until all of us are happy.