Most students who saw the email regarding Rider’s 2015 Fire and Safety Report likely glanced at the notification and swiped it away. What they don’t know is how those numbers in that report impact our campus culture, as well as help mold a national perspective on college safety that is far more relevant to us than Brad and Angelina’s divorce papers.
The results of the 2015 Clery Report seem to tell a confusing and concerning story. Last year, Rider reported a total of five rapes on campus, with one being unfounded. This is in complete contrast to the zero rapes the school reported in its 2014 Clery Report.
This shift in numbers tell us that, even though faculty and administrators are trying their best to protect students, the policies in place might not be enough.
This university and its administrators certainly deserve praise and recognition for their work in trying to prevent sexual assault and rape at Rider. Before coming onto campus, freshmen are required to take ThinkLuv courses that educate students on sexual assault in social situations. Just weeks ago, signs that encouraged students to stop or speak up against sexual violence lined the campus pathways for all to see. Last year, Rider expelled a student for allegedly sexually assaulting a female student in his friend’s dorm.
However, in situations involving any kind of violence or sexual abuse, that number going up by even one should be enough to force everyone to reevaluate what is being done to deter this deplorable behavior. But our number didn’t go up by one — it went up by five.
It is possible that perhaps Rider has created an environment where victims are finally comfortable enough to report rapes, a positive circumstance that has a negative impact on our numbers.
Even if this is the case, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that there were five reported rapes on this campus last year. It also doesn’t take from the possibility that there was a time where people weren’t comfortable reporting, and that previous numbers of reported rapes can be inaccurate. And it certainly doesn’t take from the fact that five students became five victims.
The scariest part of this all is that our numbers are the same as other, larger schools in this area. Our number of reported rapes is similar to Princeton’s, a university with over 8,000 students. Rider has around 4,100 undergraduate students. We have half the students, but about the same amount of reported rapes.
In addition, other schools layout their information regarding sexual assault very differently. Other universities, including Princeton, have all their past Clery reports available on their website. However, the reports from the past years at Rider cannot be found.
Other schools also dedicate entire sections of their websites to the issue of sexual assault. Rider’s website, while containing some extremely valuable and important information, has its sexual assault page as a subset of the counseling services. It is vital to counsel victims after they have been assaulted and suffered. However, while Rider cares for present victims of rape, it should also be focused on preventing more students from becoming victims.
When students move onto campus, one of the first things they have to do is sign a small slip of paper confirming that they understand the school’s alcohol policy. I know that alcohol violations are handled on a case-by-case basis, and that there are varying tiers of violations that determine punishment. I also know that if a student is caught with marijuana, the police are immediately contacted. However, that is not always what happens to students accused of rape or sexual assault.
Punishments often serve as deterrents. If students understand the consequences of their actions, they will be less likely to commit those actions. Rider does a great job at trying to make sexual assault less of a taboo subject, even if it is on other campuses. But we need to take it further and talk about the punishments as much as we talk about the actions that trigger them.
In addition, Rider should consider rethinking the educational programs that the school has in place. ThinkLuv, while it has important information and walks users through interactive social situations, is not entirely realistic. Many students make jokes about the program. Sexual assault prevention is something that needs to be taken seriously, not laughed about. While it is the student’s fault for not taking this seriously, some fault does lie with the program itself. Incoming students need education about sexual assault, how to tell what is consent, what to do if it occurs and resources to utilize — but all of this should be delivered through a medium that students can better relate to.
No matter what, in situations of sexual violence, there is only one person responsible — the assaulter or rapist. We, both as students and as young adults, should know when our actions are reprehensible. There is no excuse.
But maybe Rider’s administrators and staff can re-evaluate the sexual education systems we have in place, simply to ensure that this increase doesn’t happen again. It doesn’t matter if it happens to one student or five students — if even one person is sexually assaulted, that is one person too many.
The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh.
Printed in the 10/05/16 issue.