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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Offensive music in North disrupts Take Back The Night rally

Published: April 8, 2005
Section: News

A student blasted the song Rape Me by the band Nirvana outside North Quad at the conclusion of the annual Brandeis Take Back the Night rally Wednesday night, in which event organizers said over 100 students participated to demonstrate against sexual violence.

In a letter of apology to those at the rally shared with The Hoot by the student responsible for the incident (whose name is withheld on his request), the student stated that he and several friends decided that it would be hilarious if they played the song. In a subsequent interview, the student described how after returning to his room, I took my speakers, I aimed them out of my window, and I played the song.

The student said Clearly it wasnt a good idea and clearly it was one of the most reprehensible things I have doneI cant put into words how regrettable it is.
As the rally wound its way through the Brandeis campus, students reacted variously. Some came out from their dorms to join the rally. Many listened from their rooms, while others passed by without paying much attention. However, a small number of students actively tried to obstruct the event.

When the rally reached its end point in North quad at around 11 p.m., it was disrupted by a series of events. Shortly after students began to speak about their personal experiences as victims, much as they had in other quads, the fire alarm went off in Cable, making it difficult for students to hear each other. According to students who live in Cable it was the third false alarm that day.

Students continued for several minutes to speak over the sound of the alarm and responding emergency vehicles, but the rally shortly came to a close. Moments after the students began to go their separate ways, the alarm ceased, but the silence was not to last long.

Returning to his room after the false alarm, a resident of Cable, at the behest of several friends, played the song Rape Me by the band Nirvana. Following this, several students involved in the rally gained access to the room and shut off the music.

Numerous eyewitnesses described how several students went to the room with the loud music to convey their anger over the students actions. Shortly afterwards, a CA not from the students hall, came to write up the student in question. It is unclear what, if any, University policies the student violated.

When asked if he would be facing any charges before the University Board on Student Conduct the student was uncertain, but he stated that he had a meeting with Director of Residence Life Maggie Balch scheduled for the coming week.

Following the students actions posters appeared throughout campus stating that the student, thinks rape is funny. The posters named the student responsible for playing music during the rally, gave his room number and included his photo from

One of the individuals responsible for designing and initially posting the flier, speaking to The Hoot on condition of anonymity, said that their actions were not in any way encouraged by the organizers of Take Back the Night. This person went on to say that after initially posting the fliers, other students made copies of the fliers and spread them around campus.

According to Rights and Responsibilities intimidation of, threats to, physical abuse of, invasion of personal privacy or harassment which threatens to or endangers the health, safety or welfare of oneself or any other person on or off campus is unacceptable.

Amanda Winer 06, Coordinator for the Committee On Rape Education (CORE) said the initial action of playing the song was crude, thoughtless and disrespectful. But the posting of the fliers was an inappropriate response.

Instead of publicly humiliating the person responsible, possibly inciting further wrongful acts, CORE would rather have responded in a judicious fashion, in keeping with the traditions of this schools namesake, she said.

In response to the posters, the student named in them took the step of hiding his directory information and deleting his Facebook account. The pictures on the posterscame off the Facebook account, I figured this was the best thing to do to try and lay low and let this blow over, he said.

These incidents followed what had been an otherwise successful rally. After gathering at the base of the Rabb steps, the rally moved from quad to quad, holding lit candles and chanting slogans decrying rape. In each residential quad the participants formed a circle and listened to an arranged speaker. Speakers touched on a number of topics, some chose to relay their own experiences as the victims of sexual violence, while others read poetry.

Ruth Nemzoff, a scholar at the Women Studies Research Center, spoke in Rosenthal Quad about the need for women to take back the day by running for office and changing the rules.

After each arranged speech, organizers encouraged members of the crowd to talk about their own experiences. Though initially hesitant, by the time the rally made its third stop students started to step forward and describe their own experiences as the victims of sexual violence.

Some told memories of being abused more than a decade ago, while for others, their assault was just weeks old. The Hoot was present at the event, but names and specifics of such descriptions are withheld to protect the privacy of those involved.
Organizers and the victims told the group that sexual assault is something close to the lives of many Brandeis students.

One student talked of her attack while standing outside the very dorm where it had taken place. Shirts given out by the Committee On Rape Education (CORE), the primary organizers of the event, bore the statistic that one women is raped every 2 minutes, and one man every 28 minutes. Speakers at the rally said that the numbers were likely underestimations due to the unwillingness of many victims to report their attacks.

The reason for that unwillingness was related in stories by many students who spoke of the guilt they felt after being sexually assaulted, a feeling that friends and family members were said to have often augmented. Speakers reported that this was particularly true for those women who were raped by men that they had a relationship with.

These victims of date rape talked about the traumatic experience of being told by their parents that they had encouraged their own assault. A student told of her mother telling her you two were alone in his room, what did you expect to happen?

Organizers also emphasized that men are frequently the victims of sexual assault as well. One member of CORE encouraged men taking part in the event to stay committed to the prevention of sexual assault and to join CORE, which currently has only two active male members.

Winer 06 said she was quite pleased with the turnout, but added that she would like more campus involvement, or at leasta better understanding of the event, the impact of the event, [and] the sheer quantity of people these issues effecteveryone knows a survivor of rape.