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UO Professor Freyd’s Op-Ed on sexual violence and institutional betrayal

7/14/2014, In Al Jazeera America:

… It is not trivial to measure sexual victimization or perpetration, because these are stigmatized behaviors. People don’t readily admit to abusing others or being abused themselves. Researchers have worked for decades to discover how to ask behavior-oriented questions that avoid charged language and pick up underlying experience. We are now equipped to assess sexual violence experiences through careful social science survey methodology using a representative sample of students. Eventually these campus violence surveys should be standardized and administered at the same time on campuses across the nation.

However, the first step will be to test various versions of such a survey on individual campuses. This pilot work will provide useful information to the local school and help the national effort to create a standardized survey. Currently, however, those of us researchers willing to perform such surveys are meeting a vast amount of administrative resistance at our universities.

That resistance — combined with a tendency for colleges to retaliate against faculty who speak up about sexual violence on their own campuses — has created a difficult climate for sexual violence researchers.

For example, when I requested help from my university to conduct such a survey, officials turned down my request and then, in explaining that decision, speculated to the press about my supposed bias due to my personal opinions. Those personal opinions were presumably related to my criticism of the university regarding its response to campus sexual violence. This public attack on my reputation and integrity as a scientist was unfounded and irresponsible. Unfortunately, for those of us who have criticized our universities or attempted to collect data about the rates of sexual assault on our own campuses, it’s not unusual. I worry about the chilling effect this sort of institutional response has on individuals who want to speak honestly but lack my job security and credibility.

Each college and university now has a choice: nervously guard its reputation at the profound expense of student well-being or courageously invest in student safety, health and education. College campuses need to know what they are fighting. Enabling the methodical collection of data — and encouraging their transparent distribution and study — will signal to campus communities across the country that institutional betrayal can be replaced by institutional courage.

And a few examples of institutional betrayal:

7/13/2014: Hobart & William Smith Colleges rape investigation:

Another appalling story about how colleges handle rape allegations involving frats and jocks. In the NYT, here.

Also in the NYT:  Indian Girl’s Rape Called Case of Eye-for-Eye Village Justice


  1. Anon 07/13/2014

    A perfect example of why schools should not be in the criminal (psuedo-)justice business nor should they have police powers. And anyone who thinks that an institution will look after you instead of the institution is naive or a fool.

    • UO Student 07/14/2014

      While I agree that there’s clearly a large, nationwide problem with how universities have been dealing with assault and harassment cases internally, I do think the idea of a university having a separate (non-criminal, non-civil) process is crucial.

      Universities have a stated duty to provide a safe, harassment-free environment. When someone experiences sexual misconduct as a student or worker on campus, they should have some recourse outside of full legal options to have the perpetrators removed from their sphere of existence on campus. Legal options can take a very long time and often require a higher burden of proof than the he said-she said that a lot of harassment cases amount to. And they don’t necessarily guarantee that the perpetrator will be punished (if found responsible) in a way that will allow you to continue your academic pursuits with minimal disruption.

      How do we make it better at universities? I think process transparency would go a long way. And for that reason, it’s been truly disheartening watching the events of the past several months at the UO unravel in ways that seem designed to keep the public in the dark as to how these cases are adjudicated and decided.

      • anonomon 07/14/2014

        Transparency is critical but who protects the university community from the OAs and Administrators that co-opt these processes to meet their needs at the time? Due process is needed for both parties and UO clearly does not understand the concept of due process.

  2. Kind of Freaked Out 07/13/2014

    I’m sitting in my office trying to get work done, so of course I’m reading UO matters instead. I read this article and then heard the cheers of incoming freshmen/women. I walk through campus on my way to dinner, and see them: Young women full of confidence, smiling, excited to be starting college….and I all I want to do is stop them and warn them….

  3. brad 07/14/2014

    institutional betrayal can be replaced by institutional courage.

    I’m reading an article by Jennifer Freyd in al jazeera. Shoot me.

  4. Shoot me too 07/16/2014

    yes, this is yet another opportunity for JHall to show wisdom and courage and where the likelihood of doing so is minimal. Wisdom to know that stonewalling is destructive and courage to move ahead by engaging the issue honestly, rather than through show review committees, Jennifer freyd has many wonderful qualities, but objectivity on these issues is not one of them. the wise course for JHall is to find a way to engage with her talents anyway. Shoot me too.

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