Are colleges protecting their students from sexual assault?

Some of the nations top colleges and universities–Swarthmore, Dartmouth, Occidental, University of Southern California, and University of California, Berkeley–are under investigation for underreporting sexual assault and harassment on their campuses. Current and former students have filed complaints with the U.S. Education Department, alleging that the institutions’ handling of incidents failed to comply with the Clergy Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

University of California, Berkeley

University of California, Berkeley

The Clergy Act requires that colleges report violent acts on campus, including sexual assault, and publicly disclose safety and crime data. Title IX prohibits sexual discrimination on campus.

These complaints are the newest in a series of reports from students who claim that their school’s policies or procedures violated these acts. Last month, Yale was ordered to pay a fine of $165,000 for not reporting four cases of sex crimes almost a decade ago. UNC, Chapel Hill, Amherst, and Wesleyan have also been investigated over the last two years.



While it’s certainly a huge problem that both men and women are facing sexual assault on their campuses–places that are supposed to be safe and supportive for young people–it’s just as alarming that schools are reluctant to honestly report it.

Yale is currently disputing the fine, on the basis that the it is “unfair.”

I’d think “unfair” would feel little bit more like this student’s experience:

“For the entirety of my last year in college, I continued to live every day in fear,” Kenda Woolfson, a recent graduate, said at the news conference. “In May, I watched as my rapist shook the hand of our college’s president and received his diploma, and I wished I had not been discouraged by a dean from reporting the rape.”

Colleges that care about their students’ safety and wellbeing–not to mention their reputation–should take note. But if they don’t, I certainly hope prospective students and parents will.


In defense of slowing things down

If I’ve learned anything in my 24th year of life, it’s that sometimes it’s okay to slow things down. This is a hard lesson to learn, and to be honest, it’s something I still have to remind myself of. I think women especially struggle with this–we want it all, and sometimes all at once. And we feel pressured to do it all as fast and as perfectly as we can.


But why not slow life down? After all, isn’t timing everything?

Let me put my musings into context: I stumbled upon this article while “conducting research” for my thesis. It’s about a recent trend among graduate students to have children while they’re finishing their programs. The author goes on to ask whether or not universities should provide support and accommodation to parents with newborns, such as maternity leave, healthcare, and private nursing rooms.

I was surprised by how many women commented about their own experiences. Apparently, having a baby midway through your Master’s, law, medical or doctorate degree is a very real thing:

“I’m a third-year social science PhD student, and my husband and I are planning to have a child in the spring of my fourth year when I’m 26.”

“I had my daughter at 28 during my 3rd and last year of residency.”

“I had my first child during my 5th year in a Ph.D. program at an Ivy League university.”

“My daughter was born during the winter break before my final semester as a master’s student.”

“I had my son at the end of my 1st year as doctoral student in clinical psychology, attending a school in NYC.”

“I gave birth to my first son while I was in my second year of law school.”

“We have a very unhealthy obsession with work and looking busy in our culture.”

What struck me the most about these comments, besides the whole how-does-she-do-it question, is how frantic women seem to get pregnant “before it’s too late,” even in their mid-twenties. This comment, however, also stood out (and made me feel better about not having children on my radar anytime soon):

“We have a very unhealthy obsession with work and looking busy in our culture.”

I couldn’t agree more. Do we push through, multi-tasking all the way, because we want to or because we feel like we have to? Do we ever stop and enjoy the moment? Can we pause between our accomplishments, without somehow feeling like unproductive failures?

For me, it’s all about taking things one step at a time. And right now, I’m refusing to feel bad about that.

Ms. Jolie, I’m impressed.

I read in the news yesterday (okay it was E! News–but it was an E! exclusive!) that Angelina Jolie recently opened a primary school for girls outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. Jolie, who’ve we all seen in photos for her role as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, plans to fund the school through the proceeds from her new jewelry line, Style of Jolie.

Now, although I don’t know the specifics of her involvement withe school (the above plaque thanks her for a generous contribution), I have to say I’m impressed with the actress. Even though we’ve heard about Jolie’s work around the world with child refugees pretty regularly over the last few years, I’d argue that most of us never knew exactly where she was or what she was doing.

We see and hear more about Brad and her brood of adopted children then we do about the specifics of her actual on-the-ground contributions. And of course, there’s a skepticism associated with any celebrity “goodwill” that’s probably deserved. We’re used to celebrities showing up for photos ops and the chance to smack their names on something charitable.

But the Qualai Gudar Girls’ School is real (and not the first school she’s funded, I learned, through her nonprofit organization the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict) and it’s giving Afghani girls real opportunities.


Bravo, Angelina. I have many questions about how the school was opened, and perhaps more importantly, how it will be kept open as a safe place for girls to get an education. But right now, I just want to say that I’m feeling hopeful. Someone from the most privileged class of American society is making tangible commitments to some of the least powerful, most endangered voices in our world.  And ironically, E! News was the first to report it.