Sept. 21 marks the one-year anniversary of the release of the Survey of Unwanted Sexual Experiences results that revealed 1 in 4 undergraduate women and 1 in 14 undergraduate men were victims of sexual misconduct while at Rice. In the wake of these results, the University released a statement vowing “to strengthen efforts to prevent sexual misconduct” in which President David Leebron and Provost Marie Lynn Miranda called on the entire Rice community to join in these efforts.
Over the past year, many groups have enthusiastically come together to sponsor conversations and events to improve our campus climate around sexual violence. The Women’s Resource Center, Students Transforming Rice Into a Violence-Free Environment coalition, the Wellbeing Center, the colleges, the Rice Health Advisors program and the Student Association have invested and continue to invest significant resources and time to further these discussions. After a year of these efforts, it’s time to start evaluating and holding ourselves accountable for the progress we have made. The Marching Owl Band’s recent performance courageously calling attention the devastating dangers of failing to hold institutions accountable for their actions serves as a timely reminder of the importance of these conversations.
While all parts of the university have admirably come together over the past year to address these critically important issues of campus safety, more can and should be done. Shockingly, Rice’s statement about the MOB’s performance was the first time that the University had discussed sexual assault in an official statement since the release of the SUSE results exactly one year ago. Despite the president and provost’s call to substantially strengthen university efforts on sexual misconduct, very little has changed. In fact, the only major new initiative to be publicly announced, the Student Association’s “Critical Thinking in Sexuality” program, has been greeted with relative indifference by some students, faculty and administrators.
As our community continues discussing the MOB’s performance, it is critical that we not lose sight of the broader picture. Both students and administrators must be held accountable not only for the way we approach Friday’s incident, but how we approach sexual violence prevention as a whole. Our community can do better in both regards, and, after another year of more-of-the-same, we all must demand more.