Back in March, after a spate of sexual assaults on campus — including two high-profile cases involving members of the men's ice hockey team — Boston University President Robert A. Brown assigned a task force to review the culture and climate of the men's hockey program.
The task force hosted group meetings and discussions and interviewed current and former hockey players, coaching staff, administrators and alumni before coming to the unsurprising conclusion that "a culture of sexual entitlement exists among some players on the men's ice hockey team, stemming in part from their elevated social status on campus," according to the 11-page report released today.
The details uncovered in the report — that the culture is plagued by binge drinking and casual sex, that coaches handle issues internally and often inappropriately, that hockey players consider themselves "above" university rules — may elicit eye-rolls and many a "duh" from anyone who's ever gone to a big college or even just to a party on a big college campus, but the task force's acknowledgment that rape culture directly contributed to the sexual assault charges is notable and necessary.
Although one player had his rape charges dropped while the other pleaded guilty to reduced charges of assault and battery, the panel of officials still determined that something has to be done about the team's sense of entitlement, and is calling for better programs for sexual assault counseling and training (the university has already pledged to open up a new center by this fall), a strategic plan to ensure that all student-athletes are "better integrated into student life," and clearer lines of responsibility and accountability between the coach, athletic director, and President.
When we reported on Boston University's rape culture last spring, we received dozens of comments and emails telling us that the university was no different from other campuses. The task force agreed, noting that "we have not found any evidence to indicate that the problems we have identified are necessarily unique to Boston University," but thankfully concluded that, if the university is responsive to their recommendations, "all of our students, not just members of the men's ice hockey team, will benefit."
That's exactly why it's important to analyze and discuss issues of rape and sexual assault on all college campuses — not because one university has it worse than others, but so we can start tackling the systemic problems that make too many college campuses unsafe. We're glad the task force got it right.
Update: The BU Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center (SARP) actually just opened on August 27th. Awesome!
Image via B Calkins/Shutterstock.