Where did the anger over the 2018 climate survey go?

Deeya Patel, Views Editor

climate survey

Content Warning: Please be advised that this article contains content related to sexual assault and rape. 

Tulane in 2018 was a Tulane in despair. When a climate survey revealed that 41% of its female students had experienced sexual assault, efforts to address and prevent the situation were swift and powerful. The anger and urgency that Tulane’s student body experienced two years ago, however, has burned out far too quickly. 

When the results of the Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct were released on Jan. 31, 2018, Tulane swiftly started the Wave of Change initiative, which assembled a task force of faculty and students as well as a panel of researchers. The goal was to educate students about sexual assault prevention and consistently gather data to report to the university. 

The impact of the climate survey’s results was not just local. News outlets including The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post covered the reports and made comparisons to universities with similar crises. Parents of students shared their despair on Facebook. Researchers and policymakers across the United States joined Wave of Change’s expert panel to gather data and move Tulane’s climate in a safer direction. 

Orientation week in August 2018 revolved around the principles of Tulane’s All-In Campaign. The Reading Project for students that year was the novel “Beartown,”4 which continued the dialogue of sexual assault. Students were also required to attend a talk about consent. 

In only two years, however, it seems that most undergraduates have lost their anger and fervency for sexual assault prevention and some underclassmen are entirely unaware of what took place before they enrolled at Tulane. 

Shifting the Paradigm, an annual event hosted by Title IX, had its fifth assembly on Sept. 11, 2019. President Mike Fitts, Wave of Change faculty, Sexual Aggression Peer Hotline and Education members, and the Undergraduate Student Government were in attendance. 

The turnout of students not involved in any of these groups was dismal.  

It is easy to blame the university for not putting enough effort into the promotion of these events. Even if every single student received a notification about an impending event on their phone’s screen, is it likely they would attend? 

Two years is not enough time to forget how 41% of undergraduate women and 18% of undergraduate men had been victims of sexual assault. A crisis of this magnitude requires constant dialogue and education, which the university has emulated through its regular panels and events. The same cannot be said of Tulane’s student body. 

It should not take a disaster for a school to have a strong sexual assault resistance. It should not take another crisis to serve as a wake-up call for students to become involved once again. The rates of sexual misconduct on campus may be declining, but students’ involvement should not.