Despite their well-honed image as havens of forward thinking, America’s universities are all too often hostile, even violent environments for women, gays and other minorities.
At the University of North Carolina, officials are fighting the allegations of a complaint filed with the Department of Education. The student newspaper reported the details: “Four current and former students and former assistant dean of students Melinda Manning accused the school of underreporting sexual assault cases for 2010 in an annual report to the federal government on campus crime. The complaint also alleged that campus officials allowed a hostile environment for students reporting sexual assault.”
According to the UNC student newspaper, at Thursday’s UNC Board of Trustees meeting, “University officials denied [the] allegations.” The UNC Chancellor said the university was reaching out to legal expert Gina Smith, who has recently consulted with Amherst College, another top institution that has recently been embroiled in sexual assault controversy.
Angie Epifano was a freshman at Amherst in 2011, when she says she was raped. When she reported it, counselors did not take it seriously. Finally, at the encouragement of other survivors, she wrote an article in the student newspaper about her experience. According to the New York Times, “It dominated campus conversations, drew worldwide attention and led several others to step forward and say that they, too, had been sexually assaulted at Amherst.”
At around the same time, an Amherst fraternity produced a repulsively sexist t-shirt; the evidence of a hostile environment for women was overwhelming. Men, too, suffer: a male Amherst student took his own life in June of 2012, and his suicide note lamented the lack of empathy he was shown when he reported being sexual abused.
Fortunately, the recently appointed Amherst president was open to change. When Epifano’s article appeared, she “acknowledged publicly that the college had handled such episodes poorly, gave news media interviews and held a series of forums for students to express their concerns.”
The Amherst College website now “prominently” features a page dedicated to the institution’s attempt to establish “sexual respect,” with a list of changes planned and changes made.
As this blog has detailed, sexual assault and sexually hostile academic environments are all too common. Unfortunately, the Amherst president’s willingness to accept the need for change is the exception, not the rule, in college administrations.
Students are at risk of abuse and harassment from professors as well as fellow students. Two former Columbia University graduate students are suing two Columbia professors for sexual harassment, the Daily News reported. The plaintiffs are represented by The Harman Firm.
If you’ve experienced harassment or discrimination at work, we have the expertise and experience to help: contact The Harman Firm today. If you’re curious about the damages you may be owed, check out the short video below: attorney Walker Harman explains how compensation is determined in college sexual harassment cases.