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Do students feel safe at Clemson?

I wrote recently on the subject of CU 1000. And the stats about sexual victimization on campus. I’m not entirely sure the stats tell the whole story. It may be worse.

A while ago, I spoke with a female student who told me that the stats we had been given about women not feeling safe on college campuses were quite wrong. Most of the time, she said, women do not report abuse.

Partly this is fear. Partly it is a desire not to ruin the remainder of their college experience. Partly it is the revolting process of ‘due diligence’ they are required to go through. Partly it is peer pressure. Not just from guys, but also from girl-friends, who don’t want women to get a reputation as ‘prudes’ and ‘spoilsports.’ In certain instances, there is not only a cycle of abuse among perpetrators; there is one among victims, too (if one is not the only victim, one is not alone).

Yet,even though the official stats may not tell the whole story, they are frightening enough. Some 20% of all first-year female students at Clemson reportedly suffer some form of sexual victimization and 3% are raped. Let me break that down,when I sit in an auditorium of 80 students, it is likely that at least 2 women present (and I’m not forgetting guys) have been raped,and their perpetrator may well be in the same audience. Think about that. Think about what that is like for the women involved.

Then add this into the equation. I’ve now seen one of the dorms. Douthit. Two students to a room, they are tiny boxes. Not apartments. Just bedrooms. You eat out. Or in a communal room. You launder communally. The showers are shared. If I am feeling unsafe, I am essentially trapped. Simple question. Who on earth decided that co-ed dorms were a good idea? The first thing we should do is re-segregate men and women.

Next thing, we have this thing called CARE at Clemson,which is supposed to be a service which people in danger can call, but it is useless if it doesn’t provide the opportunity for 24/7 immediate escape and protection, along with a 24/7 real-time, real-person service to support people who have been victimized or who feel in danger, whether from someone else, or by their own hand. It’s no good shutting down at 5.00pm, or having an online site where you can leave a report.

I also hear that students are being turned down for therapy because waiting lists are full, and their ailments may not be considered severe enough. I truly hope my information is wrong on this one. If any student – any student – requests therapy, it should be provided. Period.

Next, we need to re-design college degree courses, so that students have the option to pursue a degree over a longer period of time so as not to cause them so much anxiety and pressure that depression – or worse – results.

None of this, however, is going to happen unless your student representatives, your CUSG, take the lead.

There is a financial equation underpinning all universities, including Clemson. It comes down to this: happy students = more admissions = more money for university. To be absolutely blunt, it is not in the interest of any university to allow the perception that their students are unhappy. It should, however, be the responsibility of the CUSG to support those students who feel unsafe.

Students are a major part of the Clemson financial equation. They should be a major part of how the financial equation is designed and operated. And I don’t mean some input process, feedback window-dressing, a suggestions box. I mean, students should be in the room where every important decision is being made about every important aspect of student welfare at Clemson. And again, being totally frank, if any CUSG candidate isn’t promising to get into that room, then don’t vote for them.

Who is going to pay for all of these suggestions? Answer: students. If we are the reason money is coming in, then (at least in part) it is our money, too. And I see no reason why we should not benefit more – directly. And let’s be honest, there is more than enough money coming in. Take a good, long look at how much building is going on around your Clemson campus. Clemson has the cash to look after students properly.

I know unhappiness when I see it and I know smiles that are forced. I know darkness when I sense it. We have much to feel proud about with our US colleges. We have a huge amount to feel proud about with Clemson University. I feel that pride with Clemson. I love studying here. That is why I want Clemson to be at the forefront of finding ways to make every college campus a place of safety for all students.

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