By: Fritz Parker
As administrators from 64 colleges and universities were traveling to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire this past weekend for a summit on sexual-assault policies on college campuses, the New York Times published what is the latest in a rash of exposés documenting botched handlings of assault complaints. While the institution named in the NYT story – Hobart and William Smith Colleges in central N.Y. – is rightly beginning to catch heat from all directions following the story’s several disturbing revelations, an even more disturbing reality is just now beginning to come into focus: these horror stories are going to keep coming out until the problem is addressed on all college campuses.
And the summit at Dartmouth is a start. Two Federal Department of Education officials at the conference have made it clear to college administrators that any colleges that fail to protect their students will face consequences. As MSNBC reported, one official did not mince words in making this point, telling the audience, “If you satisfy the law, then you have safe harbor. If you don’t, you don’t. We’re not considering a middle ground.”
While this top-down approach beginning at the highest levels of government is a measure of progress at the federal level, it will ultimately fail if it is not accompanied by a corresponding change in the campus cultures that allow these issues to fester. The administrations – though they are clearly not doing enough to combat sexual assault – ultimately cannot be the ones to solve the problem. Only students can do that.
Which is where Party With Consent comes in. Our primary objective is to engage students in the same types of conversations that their administrators are struggling with this week at Dartmouth. We think that getting students involved isn’t just part of the solution – it is the only way a solution can ever be achieved.