The Elephant: Tulane has failed to change in year since Climate Survey

Shea Dobson, Views Editor

Editor’s Note: The statistics in the following article use results from undergraduate students and, for that reason, do not necessarily reflect the graduate student experience.

We have passed the one-year mark since Tulane University released the results of the Tulane Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct, the disturbing results of which drew a mixture of shock, anger, sadness and fear from the Tulane community. Many of those who were here last year remember the cloud that seemed to fall over the entire campus the day after the results were released. The university quickly put out an action plan under the new campus organization Wave of Change.

The action plan seemed to give hope to many students that fast action would be taken to combat sexual violence on Tulane’s campus. Now, a year has passed since the results of the Climate Survey were released and the Wave of Change action plan was announced. But aside from replacing the Wave of Change with the equally ineffectual All In campaign, there has been no visible change. Tulane’s action plan has enacted little change, and sexual violence still remains a prevalent issue on Tulane’s campus.

Let’s start by understanding the vague wording of the original action plan, which is not revealed until page 41 of the original 68-page document. In the beginning of the second paragraph, Tulane states that it will “expand and improve the training we give to all of our students”, but does not clearly outline any of the actions the faculty or administration itself will take. This is logical on its face, as most sexual assaults on this campus are committed by students. When Tulane’s best and brightest, however, can only offer the options to create mandatory One Wave bystander training and increase training for Resident Assistants, it becomes clear that the university is counting on its students to solve all of its problems on its behalf.

The university, when returning for the fall semester this year, cracked down hard on the drinking culture surrounding the school by temporarily creating a “dry campus,” citing its ties to sexual violence as a reason. According to the results of the climate survey, however, only around one-third of perpetrators were believed to have been under the influence during the assault, while nearly 70 percent of victims were sober during the assault. This shows that Tulane’s actual, concrete actions are not even properly directed. Since Tania Tetlow, creator of the Wave of Change, stepped away from Tulane to accept the president position at Loyola University, it has begun to feel as though Tulane truly has no plan.

What Tulane needs to understand is that no amount of seminar classes or student training is going to end sexual assault on campus. The administration itself needs to take more direct action for students who have been victims of sexual violence. While 84 percent of students taking the climate survey said they felt as though Tulane supported them, this statistic included responses from all students, rather than specifically those who had been victims of sexual violence. Though Tulane provided many full breakdowns of data in its action plan, it did not provide a breakdown for that particular statistic.

While nearly 40 percent of the incidents of “academic sexism, sex discrimination and sexual/gender-based harassment” were committed by a faculty or staff member (39.6 percent, to be exact), Tulane conducted no thorough investigation into its faculty or staff. This is a blatant display of willful ignorance by the university and shows that our administration, which has been critically lauded for its ‘bold’ attempts to fight sexual violence on campus, will put perpetrator over victim if that perpetrator is on the payroll.

Tulane’s administration has focused more on maintaining its image than it has on stopping sexual violence on its campus. If the university really cared, it could have done a thorough sweep of its faculty and staff and made our campus safer than it has ever been with just a few pink slips. Instead, Tulane has placed the burden of responsibility on its students, knowing full well from the results of its climate survey that the burden indeed falls on the administration itself. If our administration will not investigate its faculty and staff, maybe it’s time for us to investigate our administration.

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