Frightening statistics come out each year regarding the seemingly unwavering sexual assault rates on college campuses, and each year it seems that nothing changes. With disheartening and infuriating cases like those of Beckett Brennan in 2011 and Brock Turner in 2015, it is difficult to ever find any positives in how universities across the country deal with this issue. However, at least one school is attempting to change that.
This past week, Indiana University made headlines for introducing a new policy in an attempt to further the fight against sexual assault and violence on college campuses. The policy, which was approved earlier this month, plans to ban any student-athletes who have been convicted of, or pleaded guilt or no contest to any charge regarding sexual violence. It goes on to define sexual violence as “dating violence, domestic violence, rape, sexual assault or sexual violence as defined by the Indiana University policy on sexual misconduct,” showing a wide range of policies that the university will no longer tolerate. This policy will pertain to all students, including prospective or transfer students.
Indiana has previously shown that they take sexual assault claims seriously, especially those involving student-athletes. In September 2016 when Kiante Enis, a freshman member of the Hoosiers football team, was charged with child molestation, the university was quick to dismiss him from the team and revoke his athletic scholarship. Additionally, over the past few years, the university has had stronger policies regarding other breaches of conduct that lead to the elimination of at least four members of various athletic teams. While these charges may not all have been specifically targeting sexual violence or events that occurred on the Indiana University campus, they showcase how seriously the school’s administration takes these offenses, something that many other colleges have been unable to do.
Despite overwhelming support for this new policy in general, some have been skeptical towards its actual implementation and enforcement. The actual execution of any new policy is always easier said than done, and this rings true for Indiana University. While the idea of placing a ban on all student-athletes convicted of any type of sexual assault crime is a simple concept, putting it into effect will probably not be so easy. Many worry that Indiana will go back on its word, or not take claims from students as seriously now that the success of their athletics department could depend on it.
Not only has the university previously shown that they take issues regarding their student-athletes very seriously, but this fear goes directly against what the university is attempting to combat with this policy. The creation of this protocol is intended to show how seriously the school and administration take claims of violence and sexual assault on their campus, and how they will refuse to tolerate it any longer, especially from student-athletes. We currently live in a time where Title IX often fails to protect students on their own campus, and universities are more likely to offer payouts to victims in order to cover up assault charges rather than taking disciplinary action toward the perpetrators. By instituting this policy, IU is showing increased preparedness in advocating for the safety and rights of their students, rather than just avoiding bad publicity for themselves.
Of course, this policy will not solve all problems of sexual misconduct at the school, or at any school for that matter. This policy is relevant only to student-athletes, and does nothing to expel students or enforce any disciplinary action besides removal from athletic teams and loss of scholarships. This is in no way the sole answer to combatting sexual violence on college campuses.
Still, it is a step in the right direction that will hopefully lead to stronger policies and greater action taken by universities in the future. Indiana is above all setting a precedent for all other schools nationwide, especially large public universities with strong athletic programs. While every school and program is different, Indiana has shown that they are willing to advocate for the safety and well-being of their students, something that all universities should aspire to do.
Emma Hungaski is an opinion contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.