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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

President takes first step concerning sexual assault

Published: September 12, 2014
Section: Editorials

On the night of Wednesday, Sept. 10, Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence’s dedication of Chris Burden’s “Light of Reason” at the Rose was attended by a group of students silently protesting the university’s insufficient response to sexual violence on campus. Among the many signs held by protesters, several directly asked President Lawrence why he had not made any official statement on the issue in recent years. To many, this was symbolic of the Brandeis administration choosing to ignore sexual assault completely, despite the fact that it is considered an epidemic on college campuses across the country.

For this week’s edition of The Hoot, President Lawrence sent an email to the editorial staff with his response in letter form, which can be found on the front page.

While The Hoot will not comment on the content of the letter, we do encourage students concerned with the issue to read it. We commend President Lawrence for communicating through a student newspaper and making his response accessible to the majority of the student community. We applaud the organizers and participators of Wednesday’s silent protest for their passion and bravery in confronting such a serious issue in such a public manner.

Sexual assault is often underreported; according to studies done by media outlets and government organizations, as many as 80 percent of survivors do not tell their stories. Many outlets have reported that this number is decreasing slowly but surely, but this does not change the fact that stigma around the issue is still prevalent. The Hoot believes in a Brandeis where all students are able to feel safe, as well as trust that the administration will stick up for them should they be made to feel unsafe. We believe that the President choosing to respond through a prominent student-run publication on campus is a good first step towards this.

Of course, this step does not come close to addressing sexual assault at Brandeis in its entirety. There are still many further steps to be plotted out, discussed and ultimately implemented in regard to prevention, education, and support for survivors. However, the fact that President Lawrence has chosen to respond is significant in and of itself. It is significant because it shows that students’ voices are finally being heard, something that many students have previously complained as untrue.

This is in conjunction with other student-led initiatives to address sexual violence, including the SpeakOut! Brandeis blog and the Take Back the Night marches that have occurred during the past two years. All of these show that Brandeis students also believe in a safer campus, and are willing to work toward this ideal. Many Brandeis students, including those in The Hoot, have written that the Brandeis administration must meet the community halfway to solve these issues. With President Lawrence’s letter, it seems that they finally are, and we at The Hoot hope that this is a sign that even more action will be taken, in order to make Brandeis a safer and more accountable place.