Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Oppression of fear

The University of Massachusetts administration allowed an allegedly confessed rapist to stay in school with nothing more than a deferred suspension. Upon hearing this, my first instinct was to break out pitchforks and torches and bear down upon the despicable scumbag who perpetrated this and see to it that he meets with an accident, followed quickly by an 11-month term in the flames and tortures of Gehenna, of course working to allow the bastard’s soul to be purified of his sin for entrance into Paradise.

            Luckily, cooler blood prevailed. At one point I asked myself: As opposed to what I wanted to do to the allegedly confessed rapist out of anger, what does the campus community really need? It doesn’t need a crusading college junior with a self-righteous sense of vengeance. It doesn’t need new administrative policies to expel allegedly confessed rapists. I had to find out what the campus community, especially its women, really needed.

            Now certainly, we need justice for the victim. I obviously don’t know who she is, but she has my sympathies for what I presume is her reasoning behind not pressing criminal charges: wanting to heal and move on with her life rather than repeatedly reliving her rape for the sake of satisfying the legal system. I wish her all the best in her life after UMass.

            I still had to find out what our community needed, so I asked UMass sophomore Alexa McKenzie. She explained to me how unsafe many women feel on the UMass campus.

            “I’ve definitely gotten those chain e-mails that say, ‘Never park next to a van, always check the back seat when you get into a car;’ there are a couple other things you’ll get in e-mails. I’ve had friends ­– girls – who will not walk across campus in broad daylight without holding a cell-phone conversation, so someone can hear their scream, or calling their friends to walk with them, because they believe it’s not safe to be alone,” she said. “I try not to buy into that, but I have to admit a certain feeling of nervousness when I’m walking on a street and there’s, specifically, a man trailing me, even from a good ways behind, and if they’re not distracted by anything else and don’t make any turns, I get nervous. And that’s not fair to me and it’s not fair to the guy I’m now nervous of.”

            Well damn. We don’t need angry undergrads or even a new administration. We need Batman. The very idea that any woman on this campus should have to live in fear, in the black of night or in broad daylight, is fundamentally and absurdly wrong. Yet statistics continually show that women are at risk. The National Organization for Women (NOW) says, “According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, which includes crimes that were not reported to the police, 232,960 women in the U.S. were raped or sexually assaulted in 2006,” and “women age 24 and under suffer from the highest rates of rape.”

            What this campus needs is a Take Back the Night march. Beginning as “a candlelight procession through the streets of Brussels,” the Take Back the Night movement believes in using marches, vigils and protests to showcase society’s solidarity not only with women but also with all victims of violence, especially sexual violence. Smaller events where men take to basketball courts at half time and vow never to rape just don’t go far enough. As McKenzie put it, “Personally, I don’t take many extra precautions, I do walk alone on campus at night, and I don’t know … basically, I feel like I’m taking a risk, but I’d rather take a risk than live in fear.”

            From her, I have heard of fears that absolutely appall me: Fear of walking alone, fear of being in crowds of people whom one doesn’t personally know, fear of being surrounded by drunken Southwesters on a Friday night, fear of parking next to a van and fear of being alone with strange men. These fears have sprung a reconstruction, a re-justification, of the very behavioral codes once considered so oppressive to women: Don’t go out alone, don’t put yourself forward, don’t say no, don’t talk to strangers, don’t befriend, don’t flirt and don’t dress immodestly.

            Enough is enough. Most fundamentally, we need to restore and strengthen our sense of trust in each other as members of a common campus community. Date rape, in particular, must be brought to a complete end, because as long as someone feels uncomfortable saying “no” and having it mean “no,” their partner can never truly know that “yes” means “yes.” Subjugation to fear must end just as more literal, violent oppressions did.

            Today, I feel ashamed of my campus and enraged at what it allows. However, we must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer, and I don’t want it to kill anyone else.

            Eli Gottlieb is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].

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  • M

    Michael Foley-RöhmMar 8, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    The reactions to this frighten me.

    I of course mean the students’ reactions to the administrations decisions. It is clear that the UMass Student Body is rising up against ignorance, sexist and idiocy – and speaking as a totally inept moron, I am frightened for my safety.

    I say we hold a march.

  • E

    Ed CuttingMar 8, 2010 at 8:59 am

    When you are as outspoken as I am, you tend to hear things. When you start developing a reputation of not always being on the best of terms with the university, you start hearing a lot more. And if you have a reputation of personal integrity at an institution that lacks any coherent concept of institutional integrity, it isn’t long before there are people who trust you more than they trust the institution itself.

    I was not surprised at what I heard last Thursday. Disgusted, yes, but not surprised. And this really has nothing to do with rape, the victims of that horrific offense are but the canaries in the coal mine. UMass simply doesn’t care about students, it consistently doesn’t care, and the hurt voices of the victims are but soloists in the symphony of student discontent.

    (Don’t bother reporting anything to the UMPD, they really don’t care. You are a student, it is like being black and asking Bull Connor to care…)

    For too long UMass has considered students to be a fungible resource to be exploited. They really don’t care about us, and this case clearly shows the extent to which they don’t care. The problem here is that the reporting party (the victim) was a student and the model that both the police and dean use is that of the university punishing the student.

    UMass is one of the few businesses where the customer is always wrong.

    This isn’t about rape – the rape was reported – it is about what the university didn’t do about it. How they didn’t care. It isn’t about any need to fund more educational outreach as much as the need to replace certain persons in the Dean of Students Office.

    JoAnne Vanin is responsible for that office. JoAnne Vanin is responsible for this happening and should be held accountable. And the fact that the student government leaders were intimidated into silence on Thursday – all but Derek Khanna and I will give credit where credit is due – is disturbing.

    And we need to ask what part of “threat to others” an admitted rapist doesn’t pose, and why it was acceptable for him to live on campus until the Collegian told everyone the perp lived in North, but why it then wasn’t — well ACT has a bit of explaining to do as well…

    I think this campus needs a housecleaning. I think we need a new Dean of Students. And JoAnne, if you want to send me to ACT for saying that, you “go for it girl” — you do understand the concept of “paper trail” don’t you?

    And one other thing: The Salem witch hysteria ended when they accused the Governor’s wife of being a witch. Now folks knew the Governor’s wife – they may not have particularly liked her, but they knew her and was fairly certain that she wasn’t a witch. (Other words ending in “itch” perhaps, but not witch.)

    And when they saw the star-chamber indicting her, they shut down the star chamber. And why was there more common sense in the Massachusetts of 1692 than 2009?

    ACT Delinda Est

  • P

    ProgressMar 8, 2010 at 2:43 am

    Instead of another useless march, how about a night walk where students, because while rape is scary so is just general assault and other crimes, can point out areas that need more light and other security features? It would be a better use then walking around stating the obvious that rape is bad.