Monitoring trends in sexual assault and harassment at LU

Samuel Flood

In the last couple of years, sexual
harassment and sexual assault
have fallen off the radar on campus,
though many individuals are
making an effort to restore these
issues to prominence. Between 2006
and 2008, the number of sexual
offenses on campus has decreased
significantly. A total of nine sexual
assault incidents and three of sexual
harassment were reported during
the 2006-07 school year, followed
by only one case in 2008, according
to Lawrence’s safety and security
Regardless of the decrease in
the statistics, these issues remain
relevant at Lawrence and still arise in
the form of inappropriate jokes and
isolated incidents of sexually related
Nancy Wall, administrative coordinator
for Lawrence’s sexual harassment
and Assault Resource Board
and associate dean of the faculty,
said, “I worry. I worry that students
don’t really recognize what actually
constitutes sexual harassment, and
in many cases sexual assault, and it
follows from that that I worry that
there may be more of this going on
on campus than staff, faculty and
even students are aware of.”
“Sexual harassment” and “sexual
assault” are terms often discussed
by students and SHARB provides
resources to students that help
define them.
“Sexual harassment” is broadly
defined as “including unwelcome
sexual advances, requests for sexual
favors, sexually motivated physical
contact or other verbal or physical
conduct or communication of a
sexual nature when … that conduct
or communication has the purpose
or effect of substantially interfering
with an individual’s employment or
education, or of creating an intimidating,
hostile or offensive employment
or educational environment.”
According to SHARB’s informational
brochure, Wisconsin defines
“sexual assault” as “sexual contact
or sexual intercourse without the
consent of the other person.” In
order to be prosecuted for sexual
assault, one party must express clear
unwillingness to participate in direct
sexual contact, or must be physically
unable to do so.
This fall, an incident of sexually
related misconduct arose when
rumors of the “Spank Tank” in the
Delta Tau Delta fraternity house
resurfaced and were confirmed by
multiple sources. The “Spank Tank”
was purportedly a room where men
could bring drunk women and take
advantage of them.
A member of the paint crew who
prepared the house for general housing
this year confirmed the existence
of this room. The room’s contents
included “a mattress, a dresser, a lollipop
and a condom wrapper,” with
“Spank Tank” painted on the wall,
said the student.
However, Bobby Metcalf, the current
president of the Delta Tau Delta
fraternity, denied the allegation
about the room, saying, “[It] wasn’t
there [in that condition] when I left”
campus last year.
Many people do not realize that
even innocuous statements delivered
in jest can constitute sexual harassment.
Simple jokes can lead directly
into a widespread tolerance of such
behavior, which in turn creates the
atmosphere within which unfortunate
incidents of sexual harassment
or assault can occur. “This sort of thing is a manifestation of a culture of flippancy,” said Alex Macartney, president of Phi Kappa Tau. His statement was echoed by several students, all of whom expressed the opinion that while blatant assault or harassment is rare on campus, incidences of what could constitute verbal harassment are often laughed off.
The past few years have witnessed other incidents of sexual harassment and misconduct targeting different groups on campus.
Three years ago, the Gay, Lesbian, Other, or Whatever house was plastered with signs comparing homosexual intercourse with bestiality and dendrophilia during the Wisconsin campaign to ban gay marriage.
This incident backed up a point made by Madeline Herdeman, president of the Downer Feminist Council. “Harassment and assault can be perpetrated by anyone, and anyone can be a target,” she said. “Men are not always assailants, women are not always victims.”
In the 2007-08 school year, there was an illicit poster campaign around the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity’s “P+H” party, in which the posters depicted battered women and stereotypes, with slogans made to look as if the Sig-Ep fraternity endorsed them. The fraternity was not allowed to use the name “Pimps and Hoes” for several years prior to the posting. Last year, the party was the “Peace and Harmony” party, and Sig Ep President Ben Levine said, “This year, we are thinking about going away from [P+H] entirely.”
Student organizations such as V-Day, Downer Feminist Council and GLOW are working to promote awareness and prevention of sexual harassment and assault.
Several fraternities have participated in “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” a fundraiser to raise awareness of sexual assault, during spring term the last few years. Levine said, “We [Sig Ep] have been very proud to win awards as the group with most participation in this event.”
Additionally, Associate Dean of Students for Campus Life Amy Uecke, a member of SHARB, said, “We try to do something during Welcome Week every year” to work as proactive agents of prevention and awareness.
She also stressed that students who feel that they have been the victim of an assault or harassment should come to the board for help. “Anyone [staff, student or faculty] can contact SHARB, and remain completely confidential,” she said, adding that SHARB “provides options” to these students for further redress.
Formal complaints can be submitted through SHARB, which then go to an independent attorney for review and recommendation. “SHARB is a resource to provide help,” Uecke said, emphasizing SHARB does not dole out punishments.
She stressed the importance of alertness to the issue, and concluded by stating, “We can’t force students to come to our events. At some point, students have to increase their own awareness and response to respect both boundaries, and other students.