There are some vices that some college campuses may never be able to rid themselves of—underage drinking, the use of recreational drugs and rowdy parties fall under that category, just to name a few.
As of recently, however, sexual harassment is one that some college campuses across the country are struggling with the most.
Last Thursday, Swarthmore and Occidental Colleges were put on an unfortunately long list of universities and institutions that have been accused of wrongly treating students who are victims of sexual harassment and assault.
Although the reports have not been made available to the public, the complaints made against these colleges are primarily about how the institutions tried to cover up sexual harassment and assault cases.
What is perhaps worst of all is the harsh treatment that victims have faced from officials, who students from these listed colleges claim are not caring or trying enough to help the cause.
Prominent institutions such as Amherst, Yale and the University of North Carolina have even landed themselves spots on this blacklist.
According to National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s national data, it’s estimated that 25 percent of women and 15 percent of men are victims of sexual harassment and assault on college campuses.
Christine Szaraz, a counselor at the Center for Prevention and Outreach located at the Student Union, explained Title IX, a public law enforced at universities including Stony Brook, that is used to address and subsequently deal with sexual harassment and assault on campus.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities.
Therefore, sexual harassment of students, including acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination that is protected under Title IX.
“In plainer terms, Title IX means that universities are required to take steps to prevent sexual violence, and to address it when and if it does occur,” Szaraz said.
So what is Stony Brook University’s strongest defense for dealing with these sexually based crimes?
The Center for Prevention and Outreach, also known as CPO, was created on campus in 2008, specifically for sexual harassment and assault victims.
Counselors such as Szaraz noted that the services offered at CPO have greatly impacted the safety and success of students on campus.
“Stony Brook University follows the best practices for sexual violence prevention on college and university campuses as recommended by organizations like the American College Health Association, which include identifying social norms that support sexual violence, strengthening sense of community, targeting entire community, and the use peer educators in prevention efforts,” Szaraz explained.
Szaraz, who graduated from Stony Brook with a BA in anthropology in 2003, started working for CPO in 2008 and said that the institution is at the forefront of sexual harassment prevention and education efforts on campus.
“CPO also works very closely with peer educators and student groups on campus to educate and raise awareness, including the student organization SEASA (Students Empowered Against Sexual Assault),” she said.
Although there is no concrete method to ever eliminate sexual harassment and assault on college campuses, education is perhaps the most powerful weapon that leads to preventative measures, and Szaraz emphasizes this concept through her own experiences throughout her academic career.
“When I was a student, I don’t recall the topic of sexual violence ever coming up in an orientation session or wellness workshop,” she said.
“Now, we discuss facts, statistics and resources with new students right away during their orientation weekend, and subsequently during their 101 intro courses, as well as providing ongoing workshops open to the entire campus community, with clubs, organizations and classes looking to explore the issue of rape, sexual assault, and other forms of sexual violence.”
Students living on the Stony Brook campus generally feel that sexual harassment and assault do not a possess a significant presence in the dorms, but agree that for any college, it’s impossible to be virtually free of such a thing.
23-year-old senior Jana Larsen, who majors in biology, acknowledges this concept.
“For the most part, campus is a safe place,” Larsen said. “But you can’t always control the actions of other people.”
While many prominent universities across the nation are gaining negative attention for their lack of action towards sexual harassment and assault, Stony Brook University remains well-prepared for such incidents, with on-campus services including CPO and Counseling and Psychological Services, while University Police and the Stony Brook Hospital are always on standby.