This petition addresses the events at Coastal Carolina University’s Tea & Ethics forum entitled, “Sex and College Life: Hooking Up, STDs, and Consent,” sponsored by the Jackson Family Center for Ethics and Values held on October 31, 2013. This event was designed to encourage discussion between panelists and students about sexual assault awareness and the importance of understanding consent. Invited panelists presented the complex issues that surround consent, and students in the audience were expected to respond with either a comment or a question.
During the Q&A session following the panelists’ opening statements, a large number of students responded to the panelists by articulating sentiments that reflected the view that a rape is the victim’s fault and by expressing an overall disrespect for the panelists’ expert information. While disagreement is a hallmark of education, the students’ comments that a person’s revealing clothing could make them responsible for a rape, and that a person who is drinking is responsible for getting raped, are particularly troubling. Moreover, these comments resulted in cheers and applause from the audience, thus making a safe space for discussion impossible. One panelist ultimately left this forum in protest, resulting in cheers and applause. Several students continued their commentary on social media, including posting a photograph of the departing panelist with the tagline “walk of shame” and another calling her a "feminist b****."
While students are entitled to their educated opinions regarding such matters, their opinions were stated and expressed in a way that was disrespectful, aggressive, and rude, and which reflects Coastal Carolina University’s problematic culture of disrespect and hostility. Ultimately events and actions such as these create an environment in which no student would be comfortable reporting a rape. Such fear is entirely contrary to the intent of the forum and to CCU’s mission of providing a safe climate for all community members.
The CCU Code of Conduct states that students should be “committed to creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust,” and these actions clearly violate the university’s expectations for student behavior at an educational event. The aggressive response to this topic, which continued on social media, indicates that the current harassment policies and sexual assault awareness programming on campus are insufficient to protect and foster a safe campus for everyone. We applaud the numerous efforts around our campus to educate our community members about sexual assault and violence while also recognizing that we clearly need more energy and support for such programming.
In response to the events that took place during this forum, we ask Coastal Carolina University to demonstrate its commitment to safe spaces by:
1) Articulating a clear response from the Office of the President, addressed to all members of the CCU community, outlining the expectations for student behavior at educational events on campus, and explaining how the above actions violate those standards.
2) Allowing for and supporting the formation of a committee(s), with student, staff and faculty representation, to evaluate the effectiveness of the current sexual assault policies, protocols, and educational programming at CCU.
This alarming event is not an isolated incident – it was simply the most visible observation of a culture that does not take sexual assault seriously, and shows a critical need for intervention and education. We must now seize the opportunity to publicly support efforts that protect the safety and integrity of the CCU community.