The Boards of Visitors at the University of Virginia recently held an emergency meeting to address the problem of sexual assault on campus after recent reports surfaced of a gang rape at a fraternity house. The meeting 'did not end with specific policy prescriptions,' but there seems to be a shift away from focusing on students' alcohol use and towards examining how the administration can implement harsher punishments for offenders.
It is unfortunate that it takes national media attention to convince institutions to make necessary changes. (For example, as this article states, UVA's Glee Club only stopped singing the school's misogynistic fight song last week when reports first emerged). But UVA is not alone. Many institutions grapple with sexual assault, and the media cannot target every case. We can only hope that the attention around UVA will convince every institution to create a safer, more inclusive environment.
But the mere existence of the meeting of the Board of Visitors — held as most students began to scatter for the Thanksgiving holiday — appeared to signal a crossroads for the university, one of the nation’s most prestigious and historic. Virginia suddenly finds itself with the potential to become either the national symbol of the problems of sexual assaults on campus or a leader in substantive policy changes to address the problems. The board said it would come up with recommendations in a few weeks.