What responsibility do colleges have in rape justice?

In the past few weeks, there have been a lot of headlines regarding sexual assault — including decades-old allegations surrounding comedian Bill Cosby. While these allegations are receiving the lion’s share of attention, there is some equally disturbing information from the campus of the University of Virginia about consistent cover-ups regarding allegations of rape from the young women on its campus.

You can read all about these cases in their corresponding news stories from a variety of outlets — but what I don’t see really being discussed in depth is the role of colleges in preventing and reporting these incidents. The safety of students is certainly of utmost importance to colleges but to what extent? Where does the responsibility for student safety end — or is it all encompassing?

And if the answer to that question is that colleges really should shoulder a lot of the responsibility of student safety, especially when it comes to issues of sexual assault, what else can be done to solve this problem? Should there be national standards that colleges and universities pledge to uphold — and then who will reinforce them? President Obama has already called on the young men of the nation to speak up when they see sexual crimes taking place on college campuses. Is that where we should shift our focus?

It’s clear that at least some of the crimes committed against our young adults on campuses where they feel a veil of safety are falling through the cracks. It will take a concerted effort to turn that tide but so far the solution does not seem obvious.


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