Monday, September 8, 2014

Rape Culture Close to Home

Sometimes, the phrase rape culture seems confusing.  Other times?  Not so much.  Carleton University is in the news because of these shirts:

View image on Twitter

These Carleton students were not random kids, but "Facilitators" whose job it was/is to help new students adjust to university life at Carleton.  The shirts were meant, apparently, as protests--of new Carleton guidelines to create a safe space.  What does that mean?  The news focuses on swearing but the idea is not to use misogynist or homophobic language.  That Carleton should be a safe space for people--where there is tolerance for diversity, where women can feel like they are like something other than objects, where LGBT students don't have to worry about being beaten, and so on.  Given the news over the past year about campus rape, one has to be pretty oblivious to think that saying "Fuck safe space" might not have a meaning beyond "I would like to swear."

I sure hope Carleton can force these kids to drop out of their roles as facilitators.  Why?  Because they are supposed to be leaders, and when you choose to accept leadership, you are choosing to accept responsibility.  If you don't want to follow the school's rules, then don't apply to these positions.  Pretty simple.  And if you do accept the spot, think for just five minutes how others might see the shirts.  They might not see it as a protest of a restriction of free speech, but they might instead see it as saying--we want a campus to be a place where rape is tolerated.  Is that what they want to say?  That they are pro-rape?  Because that is how this comes off.

And if they say that they did not understand the consequences of what they were doing, well, fine.  Folks without judgment should not be in leadership roles.  So, quit and accept your lesson.  I am not asking for the students to be kicked off campus/suspended/expelled.  I am just asking that they be deprived of leadership positions for which they are obviously unqualified.

The President's letter to the Carleton Community:

Sept. 8, 2014

To All Members of the Carleton Community:
Carleton University has investigated an off-campus gathering on Sept. 7, 2014 involving Carleton students who wore T-shirts with offensive wording. The event took place after Orientation Week officially concluded. The event was not an officially-sanctioned Orientation Week activity. 
Some of the students wearing the shirts with offensive wording were orientation facilitators. Such behaviour is not acceptable and extremely disappointing to the broader Carleton community. Those involved have indicated that they will issue a sincere public apology and work with the university to ensure that such behaviour does not occur again in the future. 
Sanctions will be issued subsequent to individual meetings. 
The Safe Spaces initiative is part of the university’s broader Human Rights policy. It has been in place at Carleton for over 10 years and has been supported by the Department of Equity Services. The program has been a success, with training delivered to thousands of students, as well as faculty and staff. 
The inappropriate action did not undermine the overall effectiveness of Carleton’s Orientation programming and the university remains committed to carrying on with its education and outreach to ensure safe spaces for all and an inclusive educational environment. 
Similar to other campuses in North America, we will continue the discussion about inclusivity, safe spaces and maintaining a safe campus. 
The university takes this incident seriously and will work with utmost diligence to continue the efforts already made to reinforce a culture which promotes and respects safe spaces.
Roseann O’Reilly Runte

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