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Last week, President Obama announced that the federal government was going to get even more involved dealing with the problem of sexual assault on campus. This effort will begin—surprise, surprise--with a White House Task force. According to the report in the Chronicle of Higher Education, The White House Task Force on Protecting Students From Sexual Assault will:

* Provide colleges with evidence-based best practices for preventing and responding to rape and sexual assault.
* Make sure institutions "comply fully" with their legal obligations in the area.
* Increase the transparency of federal enforcement.
* Broaden public awareness of individual colleges' compliance with relevant laws.
* Facilitate coordination among federal agencies involved with the issue.

Here’s my prediction: None of these things will change the rate of sexual assault on campus. Colleges are already under a great deal of pressure to control sexual assault on campus. Not only do such incidents result in harm to their students, expensive lawsuits and bad publicity, but the federal government has been threatening these institutions for years now, using Title IX as the wedge to get its foot in the campus gates.

Nothing will change because the problem isn’t that there are a lot of violent, malicious men running around campus grabbing innocent women in dark alleys, which is the impression you might get from the president’s remarks.

No. The first problem is that college students (men and women) are getting roaring drunk on a regular basis. It is very telling that the only time the word “alcohol” is even mentioned in the new report “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action,” from the White House Council on Women and Girls, is in a footnote describing the second most common form of sexual assault. But curbing alcohol use does not seem to be part of anyone’s plan to reduce sexual assault.

The second problem is that college students are living in co-ed dorms with no supervision. It used to be a lot harder for a man to get into a woman’s bedroom and maybe there was something to that.

Finally, when sexual assault does occur, the students are reporting it to campus authorities (who have every incentive to keep it quiet and then to expel the alleged perpetrators even without due process) rather than law enforcement. If the federal government really wanted to fix the problems of campus sexual assault, it would tell colleges that the second a student comes in to complain of such a crime, she should immediately be directed to the local police precinct. If the administration is looking for “transparency” on this issue, local law enforcement is much more likely to provide it than college administrations.

1 thought on “Obama in the dorm”

  1. Scott Walter says:

    Excellent piece. If the Obama Administration wants to learn how to be serious about sexual assault, they should study the Catholic University of America, just a few miles from the White House, whose policies follow the empirical evidence and common sense Riley highlights: http://deanofstudents.cua.edu/res/docs/SexualViolenceBooklet2013.pdf

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