Students react to sexual assault coverage, demand administrative response

Collegian file photo.

MORGAN SKERIES | NEWS REPORTER | mskeries@butler.edu

Butler University’s campus continues to digest the information provided to them by an IndyStar article on Jan. 29. The article recounted a sexual assault that occurred on Butler’s campus in fall 2016.

President James Danko released a statement about sexual harassment and sexual violence the same day the IndyStar article was published.

Parents of the victim submitted a Letter to the Editor to the Collegian, published Jan. 31. They expressed their disappointment in the university’s response to their daughter’s case and in Butler’s campus culture.

Skylar Jackson, first-year physiology and sociology double major, said both pieces “highlighted issues that the administration has.”

“I think the parents showed outrage and I think that proves the great level of unjustness,” Jackson said. “To me it emphasized how messed up the administration was.”

Sophomore psychology major Sophia Shultz brought up Danko’s first statement release when she was talking about the Letter to the Editor.

“In his letter, he said, ‘As a parent, it concerns me,’ but when other parents are going through it he doesn’t do anything about it,” Shultz said. “You would expect the president of the university to talk to the parents of the victim.”

Shultz argued that Butler students should not be hearing about issues like these only when it makes big news.

“We go to a school with almost 5,000 people and for there to be 12 reported [sexual assault] cases is scary,” Shultz said. “There were 12 reports but we only heard about the one. As students we deserve to know when these things are happening.”

Jackson, along with other students, said she wishes the university handled the situation differently.

“I think what needs to be seen is more available resources,” Jackson said. “The fact that she wasn’t given any real resources is the biggest issue.”

Alex Lozon, junior strategic communication major, also said it is concerning the sexual assault victim did not have readily available resources when she came forward.

“I think that making the survivor of the sexual assault the priority and making sure they have every resource available and their options made known to them is important,” Lozon said. “It’s worrisome that the university doesn’t seem to be on any person’s side in particular because they’re presenting themselves as an organization with all of these resources, and yet not making them ready to the victim, which is really bad.”

Lozon added that the university should have been more up front about the situation.

Shultz said the IndyStar article was disappointing to read.

“There’s so much talk on campus about [being] the Community of Care, but when push comes to shove, are we really?” Shultz said. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to go through that and be silenced. And also with the statements from the school about how they take it so seriously and encourage people, but if you do [come forward] it’s just going to be brushed under the rug.”

A group of Butler students wrote a Letter to the Editor on Feb. 1 sharing a similar concern that the university has not lived it to its own standards for campus culture set in the campaign for a Community of C.A.R.E. The campaign urges students to remain accountable to one another.

Lucas Graden, sophomore digital media production and sociology double major, thought the IndyStar article was “super important.”

“This is obviously a problem that a lot of universities face and Butler likes to pretend it’s not a problem,” Graden said. “It was essential in recognizing this problem and it is something we need to talk about seriously.

Graden said if the university does not support victims then they are discouraging future people that need help, especially those that have courage to come forward.  

Graden also mentioned he was upset by the lack of the term “sexual assault” in the release Danko sent out and the video Frank Ross, vice president of student affairs, tweeted.

“They came from the right place, but they both intentionally said sexual violence and sexual harassment,” Graden said. “They didn’t say sexual assault and I think although that is small, it’s contributing to the idea that we can’t talk about it.”

Graden said Danko’s statement felt like a press release, and Maddie Greer, sophomore strategic communication major, agreed.

“The first response [by Danko] was super vague and it looked like a press writer wrote it,” Greer said. “There were no personal thoughts, which made people even more upset.”

Greer said Danko’s most recent response, sent via email on Feb. 2, was “definitely more personal.”

“I get Butler has to protect their public image, but they have to do something about it,” Greer said. “We’re all here to make Butler a better place, and if we can’t do that it’s sad that your home away from home is not doing something about it.”

In the latest release, Danko said the university has recently established a new Policy on Sex Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct and Domestic Violence. Danko added that Butler hired Title IX Coordinator Jamie Brennan, and a prevention educator and victim resource specialist, Sara Minor, “[p]rior to the issues our community has grappled with this week.”

An action plan for improvement is expected to be formed in the next 30 days under the leadership of Ross and his staff. They will meet with groups of students to talk about ways Butler can improve as a campus.

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