Monday, August 24, 2015

Back to school, back to reality

The new school year often brings some Title IX news. Stories that address what a girl versus a boy is allowed to wear for yearbook photos or whether the women's cross-country roster is being padded with runners from winter/spring track have made the back-to-school news in the past. This summer has not exactly been slow in the Title IX world. Court cases against various schools being brought by those who feel schools did not do enough and those who felt schools went too far continue to move through legal proceedings. (See Erin's post from last week.)

This is one the first back-to-school smh-es I have seen. And it is very bad. This morning it was local news; this afternoon national media picked it up.

An off-campus house at Old Dominion University where some members of the Sigma Nu fraternity live, had banners hanging from the windows this weekend "welcoming" female first years--and their parents--with threats of sexual assault. Rivaling a Yale fraternity's chants of "no means yes, yes means anal" from several years back, the banners, only slightly more subtle, read: "Rowdy and fun. Hope your baby girl is ready for a good time"; "Freshman daughter drop off (with an arrow pointing to the front door)"; and "Go ahead and drop off mom too..."

The outrage and condemnation was swift with the president and other university officials speaking out over the weekend against the now-removed banners. But it was not until today that Sigma Nu was suspended the university, a move that was supported by the fraternity's national organization, who said that it does indeed appear that members of the fraternity participated in the banner making and that those men will be dealt with by the organization.

This incident certainly adds to recent discussions about the role and current manifestations of sororities and fraternities on campuses. More narrowly, and more to what we think about here, it speaks to the culture that exists on campus. ODU is NOT on the list of schools being investigated by OCR and there is no Title IX lawsuit against them. This does not mean that is all is well at the university.

Last spring, a local news station spent considerable effort investigating the case of an ODU student who was raped on campus (not by an enrolled student). She contends, and evidence confirms, that the university was slow to respond to her requests--like to change housing, which they did after a month though they charged her more for her new housing--and offered very little support. Her scholarship was yanked when her grades fell in the aftermath of the rape, when she was suffering from PTSD. She did not file a complaint, as I noted, but if she had...well, things like fraternity members making public assertions about the role they think female students should play might make it into the report. In other words, though ODU may have dealt with that rape and this current situation, they need to treat these not as isolated incidents but as part of a culture marked by misogyny.