Consenting College

Astrid Ressler, Copy Editor

As a highly involved student at SUNY Oneonta, I can say that I have witnessed multiple angles that this college campus takes on the very serious issues of sexual assault and rape involving its student body.

Our Student Code of Conduct, which applies to every individual who is enrolled in classes at SUNY Oneonta, specifies what is considered consent versus what is not considered consent. This includes times when a person is unable to give consent because that particular individual is unconscious, intoxicated, or involuntarily restrained in any way.

Consent can also be taken away at any time if a person changes their mind and does not want to move further or continue with what is happening. They don’t need any explanation if and when they do decide to withdraw their consent. They are also allowed to not give consent to sexual acts performed on prior occasions. Consent on one day does not mean consent for life.

Coercion or force does not constitute consent in any situation, at any time, ever.

As an Orientation Leader for the campus during  summer breaks, I have taken note of what information we provide to incoming students about sex and sexual assault. The school puts on a presentation for its students which aims to compare the act of ordering a pizza to the act of giving sexual consent.

An example of this is saying that someone may like extra cheese and peppers on a pizza, but they are going to share this pizza with someone who likes extra cheese and spinach instead. In order to please both parties, a compromise has to be made. If someone doesn’t like to eat peppers, you cannot force them to eat peppers. Similarly, if someone is comfortable doing one sexual act (extra cheese), but not something else (peppers), they cannot be forced to do it. That is consent!

We, as Orientation Leaders, also perform a skit that plays out the morning after for a student who had gone out to a bar with some friends but is walked home by someone whom they just met. This new person coerces themsleves into the girl’s room. The girl, who is too intoxicated to push him away, gets raped.

I don’t feel that this information gets absorbed into the minds of the incoming students this way. They are much more focused on registering for classes and trying to make friends at orientation.

Working for the Admission’s Office as a campus tour guide, we are instructed to always mention the blue lights that the campus has scattered across the property to assist students. If any individual were to feel unsafe at any time, or see something happening that makes them uncomfortable, or think that they are in a dangerous situation, they can use the blue lights to alert the SUNY Oneonta campus police.

Preventative measures are always good to put in place in order to avoid unwanted behavior on the campus and among students, but the presentations and the blue lights are not stopping sexual assault and rape from happening here.

The ways in which this campus is trying to encourage students to report sexual assault and rape are not working.

From experience, SUNY Oneonta does not always take such crimes seriously even if they are reported. There needs to be better training and teaching for students and professional staff alike in order to recognize dangerous situations and students who are in distress.

As an English student, it breaks my spirit to know that a professor from my department can sit on the judicial board for the campus and not believe students who report these kinds of incidents. This leaves the victims to be exposed to ridicule and harassment while also forcing them to see their attacker on campus every day.

Depending on how a student feels about what has happened to them, seeing such a person around and in their environment would most certainly hinder a student’s class studies and campus participation. It also has the potential to impede on their sleeping and eating habits if their thoughts are so consumed by the chance of seeing their assailant in places where they should feel safe and secure.

Being a part of both the campus radio station as well as the campus newspaper, late nights are inevitable for me. Many students have late classes or study in the library particularly late, leading them to walk alone late at night, which popular statistics show put them at more risk for sexual assault and rape.

Doesn’t say there is something seriously wrong about our society?

The University Police website provides their statistics recorded last year to show just how many instances of sexual misconduct, sexual assault, and rape had been taken to the judicial board.

In 2014, SUNY Oneonta had nine guilty verdicts of sexual misconduct and two rape verdicts for a campus of just under 6,000 students. These are also the only times in which the crimes were reported for the campus to look into. Imagine how many more went unreported.

It is terrifying to know that some students on this campus have been found not guilty despite the fact that they committed such terrible crimes against another student. And since they got away with it, who’s to say they won’t do it again?

This campus needs to make more changes in order to keep us safe.


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