Jordyn White is a sociology senior and Mustang News opinion columnist. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
A few weeks ago, I received an email from the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities detailing a new sexual assault and alcohol training program. I hoped for a more effective and worthwhile training for students. I hoped for a course that would provide more comprehensive training toward preventing sexual assault and alcohol abuse, and a revamping of resources for those victims of assault.
Not Anymore turned out not to be enough.
The intent of Not Anymore was clear: to overhaul the previous Haven and AlcoholEdu trainings while providing a more sincere and relatable format for college students. Not Anymore falls short of this goal, especially when considering last year’s events at Cal Poly.
Cal Poly’s switch to Not Anymore was mandated by the State of California and the California State University System, according to a campus-wide email. The program, produced by Vector Solutions, strives to “prevent sexual assault, dating and domestic violence and stalking.” However, the events of Cal Poly’s elusive Title IX case from last year (where a student was acquitted of three charges of sexual assault, while having at least seven other accusations against them) prove only one thing to victims of sexual assault on campus: Cal Poly administration won’t support victims when actual cases are brought forward.
Not Anymore, as an educational tool, did its job. It provided useful information about staying safe on campus. The stories, told by the real people who experienced them, are a vital learning aspect of the program because they allow college students to see the real issues that can potentially affect anyone attending college.
Although Not Anymore is a step in the right direction, my concern is with the lack of action taken in last year’s Title IX case, as well as the dismissive nature in general that Cal Poly administration takes toward sexual assault reporting. In Mustang News’ coverage of the Title IX case from October, Melissa Giddens, who came forward about her sexual assault during her time at Cal Poly, said “I felt very victim blamed” during the investigation and that and that the ordeal made her feel more anxious about the incident.
Giddens’ sentiments are echoed by many students around campus. I know I am not the only woman on campus who feels unsafe. As a freshman, my older female friends warned me about which fraternities’ parties to avoid. They showed me which paths to avoid at night. They taught me to hold my room keys between my fingers to fend off attackers. When I arrived at college without pepper spray, classmates told me I needed to have it. Now, when I see women who don’t have pepper spray, I worry for their safety.
This should not be normal on college campuses.
Even if it does happen at every campus, Cal Poly administrators should strive to eliminate the issue. The university should strive to be better and do better, so that everyone can walk freely and safely without fear of harm coming their way. Not Anymore represents the “all talk, no action” behavior exhibited consistently by Cal Poly. Administration at Cal Poly seems to care deeply about the way the university is perceived by the public, but when it comes to actual accusations of sexual assault, almost nothing is done to protect the victims–and too often, perpetrators walk free.
This is a disturbing trend that cannot continue.
With the aforementioned Title IX case reaching a conclusion last year, Cal Poly administrators knew that students were upset and frustrated with them. As soon as news broke, animosity rose on campus and especially on social media. Activists spoke widely about the issue and demanded justice for victims. In the weeks following the closing of the case, the alleged rapist was allowed to continue their education at Cal Poly and graduate, without hindrance or consequence.
Instead, Cal Poly changed their sexual assault training for students and called it a day.
From this, all I see is a university that does not truly care about the well being of its students. I see a university that cares only about maintaining a public image and continues to shame victims out of coming forward when they are attacked. Cal Poly administration talks about being open, available, and prepared to listen to victims and provide support, but when it comes to taking action and enforcing consequences…radio silence.
Not Anymore is a good first step. It highlights the severity of sexual assault on college campuses in an honest, intimate setting. However, “talking the talk” is not enough.
As a university, Cal Poly needs to do better. Everyone should feel safe and secure when coming to Cal Poly. Every student, faculty and staff should feel supported coming to campus, and know that even if the worst happens, Cal Poly administration will do its best to support them through the hardship, and provide swift justice where it is needed.
Until then, how can Cal Poly truly say Not Anymore?