The University of Connecticut announced Friday that it will try to stamp out what must be one of the worst nicknames for a campus landmark in the country: an isolated, wooded pathway popularly known as the "rape trail."
The walkway, otherwise known as the Celeron Path, runs between the main UConn campus and a nearby apartment complex. University authorities say the path is not actually any more dangerous than any other part of the school grounds, but the nickname has held for years, and it gained new notoriety in October when a video began to circulate online of UConn students cheering at the mere mention of the trail during a Timeflies concert.
Days after that show, two women were sexually assaulted in a wooded area near campus.A photo of the "rape trail":
The rape trail is SO fall pic.twitter.com/R9dfhZgiSf
— erin bowman (@bowmanerin) October 8, 2013
The university's announcement came as part of a broader pledge to address what some students have called a sexually hostile environment on campus. School officials have said they intend to implement a series of recommendations by the President's Task Force on Civility and Campus Culture, a group created last summer to explore ways of combating sexual violence and harassment at the school.
The task force took on renewed focus in the fall 2013 semester after a group of seven current and former students filed a federal complaint and a lawsuit against UConn, accusing it of mishandling sexual assault and harassment cases on campus.
In a report published internally in December, the task force recommended that the university support and assist "a student-led drive to eradicate the use of the alarming and unfounded nickname occasionally used to describe the walkway to the Celeron apartment complex." It went on to suggest a number of options for addressing the problem, including "re-naming the path, building on either side of the path to decrease isolation, or re-routing the path, among other possibilities."
State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield) called for hearings to discuss the problem of sexual violence at UConn shortly after the federal complaint was filed. Despite living in Connecticut for 49 years, McKinney said in October that he only learned of the "rape trail" nickname through The Huffington Post's reporting.
McKinney said at the time that he could "only imagine how difficult it is to come forward" as the students filing the complaint had done, "so one has to imagine there are more" who haven't spoken up.
"Our goal is to remain at the forefront of the battle against sexual assault and harassment by doing all we can to mirror best practices nationally, and to be a leader in the field," UConn President Susan Herbst said in a statement Friday.
The task force also recommended that the school implement bystander intervention training -- to show students how to identify and intervene in dangerous situations -- and that it enhance programming on how to prevent sexual violence, drug and alcohol abuse and unhealthy relationships. Herbst said that work on these items will be an ongoing effort.