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Pennsylvania Students Protests Against Sexual Violence and Administrators Respond | The Nation

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Campus-oriented news, first-person reports from student activists and journalists about their campus.

Pennsylvania Students Protests Against Sexual Violence and Administrators Respond

At a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, students camped out for three days to call upon campus administration to prioritize protecting them against sexual violence. And the university responded by meeting all of their demands.

Students at Dickinson College occupied the university’s administrative building since Wednesday and said they would stay until all of their demands were met. Friday night, the college, which had been involved in negotiations with the students since Wednesday, announced it would work with students in rewriting campus policy against sexual assault. 

Some of the demands included using its Red Alert system to report cases of sexual assault, full transparency of the judicial process, a stronger stance against sexual violence, the creation of sexual violence prevention program and a time-line for the creation and implementation of a new sexual misconduct policy. The administration also asserted it will uphold the policy to punish rape with expulsion.

High levels of sexual assault are by no means exclusive to Dickinson College. The Department of Justice found that roughly one in five women who attend college will become the victim of a rape or an attempted rape by the time she graduates. But due to under-reporting official data from the schools doesn’t reflect the extent of the problem.

Even when a sexual assault is reported, the perpetrator is rarely held accountable. The Center for Public Integrity conducted a year-long investigation in 2010 of the national problem and found that students found responsible for alleged sexual assaults on campuses often face little to no punishment. This gives victims little incentive to go through the often-traumatizing process.

More than a hundred students have slept at Dickinson’s administration offices during the protest and a few hundred more have attended rallies during the day. That’s more than ten percent of the small college’s student’s population of some 2,400.

Students carried signs that read ‘Stop the silence, our safety is more important than your reputation’ and ‘I value my body, you should value my rights.’

“This is a pervasive problem. Almost every student will tell you they know somebody who's experienced sexual violence or have experienced it themselves,” student Tiffany Hwang told The Nation. “Those that actually do get adjudicated is not reflective of the real experience of students.”

Hwang said that several speakers, such as Jaclyn Friedman, who have visited the campus over the last month have empowered student to act. Friedman is author of “Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power & a World Without Rape.”

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