Dear James Madison University,
This is my second letter to you, first being my college essay when I applied to JMU, now nearly two years ago. While we decided it wasn’t going to work out between us, I have always thought fondly of you. We’re too mature for bitter break-ups right?
Dear JMU- during our time apart, I have had nothing but kind words to say about you- until now. You know what this is about right? Oh you know, the three male students who sexually assaulted a female student, video recorded the assault, and distributed it throughout campus BUT were not suspended nor expelled, in fact, were told that they were still able to receive their college degrees. I know what you’re going to say- “it was her fault, she shouldn’t have been in the situation in the first place,” or “her outfit provoked them.” I’ve heard it all before, and I must say, its quite mind boggling how a university which prides itself on “changing the world- one person at a time” and having “change” be the “status quo” can somehow be so ignorant when it comes to an issue so prevalent in our society today as sexual assault on student campuses.
Its quite interesting isn’t it? How if a student is caught for plagiarism, they are kicked out of school- because what lack of morality and lapse of judgment that student had, right? But three students sexually assault an incapacitated student, and they are simply told to finish the duration of their education before being banned from campus- how fitting.
What message does a university give to its students and the surrounding community about the severity of sexual assault when the most severe consequence of sexual assault on campus and in the student handbook is merely suspension from school? That’s what we as students are at college for, right? To learn? What are we learning from you, JMU, if three perpetrators of sexual assault are able to receive their diplomas without any penalty? As if you completely looked the other way.
Oh, but you, administration couldn’t determine whether or not the acts were consensual or not- I guess that would be a legitimate excuse if it weren’t for the victim blatantly saying “this isn’t a good idea” or “this is NOT okay” in the very video the victim brought as evidence.
So what’s the excuse JMU? Why are you not treating a case of sexual assault as what it really is? A crime. Instead you shame the victim into dropping out of school while the perpetrators get the satisfaction of not only committing a crime of sexual assault, but having diplomas on the wall to remind them every day of how the fine institution from which they studied condoned sexual violence.
Dear JMU- did you know 20% of women on college campuses are victims of sexual assault? Most people don’t know that. That’s because most women don’t feel like they can outwardly come out and report it to their school. How brave the victim was to tell you, JMU- yet what a mockery you made out of it.
Tell me what it means to be expelled AFTER graduation, JMU, because I think I must be understanding it wrong. So three students have non-consensual sexual relations with a student, and they are told that they can never return to JMU…. AFTER they receive their diplomas? In essence, the students are being told, “here, quick- take this diploma and run, before word of this gets out anywhere.” Shame on you, JMU- for undermining a girl’s right to say no. Shame on you for encouraging this misogynistic rape culture that society sees as the norm.
Now what are you to do? Now that this incident, along with the policies of JMU are being investigated as violations of Title IX- you must see the err in your ways. Pity isn’t it? That “turning the other cheek” didn’t quite work this time? Maybe next time an incident as such arises, you will take it more seriously.
Dear JMU- while I don’t see our paths crossing again, I genuinely hope you understand the severity of your actions moving forward. Sexual assault is not a joke. And while wry and sarcastic, neither is this letter.