Though I’ve never been of those ‘good ole days’ guys who reminisces about a Golden Collegiate Age never to be seen again, I absolutely loved my college years. Not only did I meet Katie, my wife + partner there, I had a ton of fun, learned first-hand the value of social activism, received a pretty great education, and met people who have remained my closest friends to this day.
And I’ve been proud of my alma mater—James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia—ever since. Defensively so in our New York years, when we found ourselves surrounded by northerners, many of whom considered only private school educations to be true educations.
And now that pride’s gone, to be replaced by a very sad disgust and disappointment.
As many may have already read via various social media platform, the Huffington Post this week broke a story of a student being sexually assaulted by three fellow students. Making a terrible experience worse, the three men who allegedly assaulted the woman—Sarah Butters—videoed the assault and then proceeded to distribute the video to their frat brothers and friends. Worse than all of that, perhaps, is JMU’s administrative response to all of this being brought to light.
From the HuffPo article, by Tyler Kingkade:
“The school found the men responsible for sexual assault and harassment in the spring break 2013 attack on Sarah Butters, and determined that they shared the video widely with others on the JMU campus in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The unusual “expulsion after graduation” sanction allowed two of the men to graduate on time in May. The third plans to remain on campus for his senior year in 2014-15.”
As our friend, comedian + writer, Eliza Skinner, states: “‘EXPULSION AFTER GRADUATION.’ I’m pretty sure that’s just called ‘GRADUATION’. The victim, on the other hand, has lost her financial aid, and had to withdraw from the university as a result of the ordeal and pressing charges.”
Sexual assault and the massive imbalance between the rights of women and those of men were clearly issues in our day—our dean was accused of running prostitution ring, after all—but it saddens me greatly to think of how unsafe this administrative ruling must make the women of James Madison feel today. The culture of misogyny that continues to rule the collegiate establishment and set the tone for its students and teachers years after I left that campus is shocking and deeply, deeply disappointing.
When is this bullshit world going to make a change for the better and stop punishing women for being women?
Rather start to devolve into a gigantic rant, I urge any readers to do three things:
Read the original article in full;
Read Eliza’s eloquent disowning of JMU; and
Sign this change.org petition.
I know, I know—you’re already, inundated as we all are, with requests to sign change.org petitions and aren’t even sure how effective they are, but still, do it. On Facebook or Twitter? Hastag #JMUsucks and #StandWithButters and share this story.
Above, Eliza (center), myself (second from the left), and friends celebrate—with cake and terrible haircuts—our graduation from what we thought at the time was an awesome, progressive university. Way to break my heart, you asshole school.