Can One Civil Rights Case Alter a School’s Reputation?


Image from college.usatoday.com

Image from college.usatoday.com

Four universities in the state of Virginia are currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for possible violations in relation to their handling of sexually violent crimes involving students: James Madison University, the University of Virginia, the College of William & Mary and the University of Richmond. The latest school to join the bunch is James Madison University – who is facing heaps of negative scrutiny from it’s current students AND professors.

During a spring break trip back in 2013, Sarah Butters was hanging out with other male students whom she considered to be friends. Both parties were intoxicated, Butters more so than the others. Upon returning to school, a video surfaced that featured the male students groping a topless Butters, who was clearly “out of it.”

Butters went to the school board the following school year to file a complaint – but the school did not do much.

Not only has JMU’s case been exposed to negative publicity through it’s local news stations, but has spread across the country and was scrutinized by Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.

Stewart openly dissected the inadequacy in higher learning’s policy handling sexual assault.  “This case is horrifying, but at least the woman has evidence – you know, video. Most sexual assault cases are notoriously difficult to prove,” he continued. “Often victims don’t feel like they can come forward and then there’s going to be denials and appeals. At least this time the school cannot sweep this under the rug. So what’s the punishment?”

James Madison University is being accused of providing the three men who assaulted the former JMU student with too lenient of a punishment – expelled upon graduation. Two of the males were seniors and allowed to finish out their final year, while the third male student was a junior and is still allowed to attend JMU for his senior year. Their only real punishment regarding their education is not being able to return to campus for alumnae events in the future.

“Wait a minute, ‘expelled upon graduation?’ Isn’t that … graduation?” Stewart questions. “No alumni tailgating, or reunions, or bringing your kids back to show them where you abused girls?”

Is this truly the proper punishment?

Being a female college student at the aforementioned school, James Madison University, I can attest to the fact that we, as students, are enraged by the punishment set for the assaulters. But by no means am I ashamed to be a part of JMU regardless of this instance, and I am offended of those who say they are.

JMU is more than one situation.

I am incredibly disappointed, and honestly disgusted, however, to have a few judiciary men dictate how MY school handled a situation as serious sexual assault.

I will forever love JMU and the intensity and love and community of how we rise together in times of adversity, such as this, is what makes JMU Dukes such an incredible force of change.

This issue speaks volumes because it affects so many people across the nation. Sexual assault, for both men and women, is a problem sweeping college campuses that often goes unreported, therefore, unpunished. Students need to be able to feel comfortable coming forth with such sensitive information.

Sarah Butters was brave enough to come forward about her situation – but the punishment put on her attackers was so lenient that she ended up dropping out of JMU.

This instance and lack of a punishment could scare other victims into not coming out. No one should be ashamed to share his or her story.

Sexual assault is an issue that needs to be taken more seriously.

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