THE BLOG

Heading for College, Heading for Trouble

09/04/2014 12:21 am ET | Updated Nov 04, 2014
  • Martha Burk Money Editor, Ms. magazine; national gender pay equity consultant, Director, Corporate Accountability Project, National Council of Women's Organizations
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Labor Day's in the rear view mirror, and college students are hitting the road back to school. There's no doubt college can be a wonderful experience. But for some, it will be a nightmare. Specifically the nightmare of sexual assault for one in five female coeds. You read that right -- one in five.

And don't think college administrators are standing guard. Looking the other way is more like it. The New York Times has documented that college women have been brushed off and ignored, or worse, told they just can't handle campus life and rape is like football -- so get with the game. Victim blaming is another strategy to silence complaints.

The situation has gotten so bad that this year for the first time, the Department of Education has published a list of 55 colleges and universities that are under investigation for their mishandling of complaints.

Congress is taking action because university administrators are notoriously timid on the subject. A bi-partisan bill sponsored by Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and co-sponsored by several Republicans including Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is pending in the Senate. The measure would require schools to conduct anonymous surveys concerning campus assaults, and to make the results public. Not a giant step, but at least that way parents would know how safe - or unsafe - their daughters would be.

It's great that Congress wants to act, but in today's political climate it's unlikely the bill will pass before the clock runs out and they scurry for home trying to get re-elected. 2014-04-01-yourvoicesmallest3.JPG

Some student groups are acting on their own. One in Four, a national non-profit targeting campus sexual assault, now has chapters at more than than a dozen colleges and universities, including the U.S. Naval Academy, The University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Virginia. Their programs are directed at both male and female students.

At Trinity College of Connecticut , there's a push to integrate women into fraternities, which are a big part of the rape/sexual assault problem on campus. The idea is that women would have a civilizing effect and co-ed fraternities would be kinder and gentler.

I've got a better idea. Ban fraternities. They have no academic purpose. Many are notorious for a culture of debasing women, and according to the National Institute of Justice, at least 10 percent of sexual assaults on campuses take place in fraternity houses.

I know, not all frat boys are perps, and not all perps are frat boys. But research shows that fraternity members are three times more likely to commit sexual assault than other college men. When you're surrounded by buddies who think it's ok to rape and assault with little danger of being punished, the odds go way up. And what about sororities? Ban them too. Women in sororities are 74 percent more likely to get raped than other college women.

Kicking the Greeks out of the academy might not solve all campus sex crimes, but there's no question it would help. College is supposed to be about getting an education, not getting drunk or drugged, getting raped, and getting blamed.

Listen to the 2 minute radio commentary here: