When it comes to campus responses to sexual violence, we're hard pressed to think of a single school that is “getting it right.” Although we’ve seen some progress in recent years, our colleges and universities have been getting it wrong for a very long time. No one can deny that. So why do none of them admit it? Why has only one university president in all of the U.S. acknowledged that his school has let down students in the way it’s handled sexual assault and publicly apologized for it?
In the last couple of years, we’ve seen many schools issuing broad proclamations about everything they’re doing to address sexual assault now that the world is watching, but few acknowledging the harms they’ve caused and enabled behind closed doors. We’ve seen many schools congratulating themselves for rolling out new sexual assault policies and procedures — often, only after enduring a PR nightmare or being compelled to do so by the Office of Civil Rights — but almost none apologizing for the institutional failures that necessitated those new policies.
It’s time that schools hold themselves accountable for their past and current failures in addressing sexual violence in their communities. It’s time that schools apologize to students for whom they’ve contributed to a sense of institutional betrayal and re-victimization. It’s time that schools lead by example and demonstrate the integrity they are supposed to advance by taking responsibility for their failures, and do the bare minimum to show current and prospective members of their community that they’re worthy of the trust they so desperately need.