Students Stage Sit-In To Protest College Sexual Assault Policy

Students at Pennsylvania's Dickinson College are dissatisfied with their school's handling of sexual assault. So they've staged a sit-in — and though the school has agreed to make a few changes, the protest continues.

According to PennLive, students decided to protest after a meeting with the college president in which "they were warned to use caution in discussing unconfirmed details of an allegation of campus sexual misconduct incidents." The students felt their concerns about their own safety hadn't been addressed. So they organized a march on Old West, the campus building that houses the president's office, and once there, they staged a sit-in. Some three hundred students slept in the building Wednesday night, and many remained there as of Thursday. Their demands, at least according to a student commenter on PennLive's website:

1. Full transparency of the sexual misconduct policy process
2. The Department of Public Safety must send red alerts to the whole campus when sexual assault or rape is reported
3. A stronger administrative stance against sexual assault and rape
4. Expulsion must be the protocol for students found guilty of rape and sexual assault
5. Focus on creating a proactive education-based sexual violence prevention program
6. Specific plans and dates for concrete changes

The administration has already agreed to send out alerts about sexual assault via the schools text alert system, and says expulsion in the case of rape is already official policy. However, senior Tiffany Hwang tells the AP that the school has only "met the most easy to meet of our demands." A statement issued yesterday by the protesters stated that the school had still "failed to meet student demands of a swift and immediate change to college policy, as current tentative administrative offers assert that a policy change could be passed in early- to mid-April." It continued,

While students are excited about the open dialogue that is occurring, there are still concerns in regards to clarity and those demands that have yet to be addressed. [...] Students will continue to protest until all demands are met, and the administrative response is clarified and implemented fully.

Dickinson's response to the protest has not been without its predictable elements — for instance, the president told students it was their job to "tackle campus 'alcohol abuse and incivility' that contribute to safety problems." Drinking really isn't at issue here, and linking alcohol abuse to a sexual assault protest just reinforces the all-too-common misconception that rape is caused by women drinking too much. Still, it's encouraging to see the Dickinson administration negotiating with the protesters, and to see the story getting media attention. Too often, colleges and universities try to sweep sexual assault under the rug — Dickinson students are saying they won't tolerate this anymore, and hopefully schools across the country will hear their message.

Student Protest Continues [WHPTV]
Dickinson College Students Demand More Changes To School's Sexual Misconduct Policies [PennLive]
Dickinson College Protest Stretches Into 2nd Day [AP, via Beaver County Times]