ATHENS, Ohio – The nation’s universities are again open for business this fall. And, again, an epidemic of campus sexual assault starts anew, as it does on many campuses in the first few weeks of the fall semester.
On the campus of Ohio University, for example, in the first four weeks of school, campus and local police have received about a dozen reports of sexual assault.
But this year, in the midst of #MeToo, of admired public figures questioned for their past behavior toward women and when a Supreme Court justice nominee is accused of sexual assault while he was a student, this well-respected university in a small southeast Ohio town has responded with rage and, as importantly, action.
Students have had enough. And, they say, they are going to fix this. They’re going to do it with the zeal unique to college students, with campus resources pooling for women to safely walk through campus, with student government on board, with administration attention and their own brand of campus signage.
As you walk down College Street on OU’s campus, white bedsheets and banners hang beneath large Greek letters on fraternity and sorority houses.
In previous years and at other universities, those bedsheets have been painted to degrade and sexualize women, particularly on Welcome Weekends and college football game days. With sayings so nasty we can hardly print them here, they’ve encouraged male predatory behavior and female subordination and disenfranchisement.
Last week, in Athens, anyone driving past Greek houses could read, in flapping bedsheet scrawl, “No does not mean convince me,” “Our bodies, our rules,” and “Stand with survivors.”
It’s not just the women who are angry.