We at National Women’s Liberation call for an end to all sexual assault and rape. One in three women at UF report being sexually assaulted, and we demand real action. UF President Kent Fuchs stated that “any occurrence of sexual assault is unacceptable” in his recent Alligator column that was a response to the Association of American Universities’ (AAU) 2019 Campus Climate survey results; and we agree. But what is he doing about it? Current “prevention training programs” are unacceptable and don’t make a difference in student safety. Rapists must be held accountable.
Fuchs is a community leader, setting an example for UF students and other universities with our top seven status. If men in power and influential positions refuse to hold violent men accountable, they send the message that violence will be tolerated. Some men benefit from others evading punishment after raping women because it solidifies male supremacy. Sexual violence looms over women, a threat that forces them to consciously alter their lives to avoid danger. When Fuchs wrings his hands over rape and sexual assault statistics but does not condemn rapists outright, he is complicit in women’s oppression.
National Women’s Liberation recently coordinated with student activists to demand emergency blue lights along Fraternity Drive, where 33 percent of campus sexual assaults take place. We gave Fuchs the opportunity to support us, but he did not even respond. He stated sexual assault is unacceptable, yet he refused to express support for a simple safety measure. His inaction is complicity.
Justice Clarence Thomas will teach at UF’s Levin College of Law in Spring 2020. This teaches men like Thomas and Justice Brett Kavanaugh that they will not face consequences for sexual misconduct. This teaches women and survivors, like Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford, that they will face consequences for coming forward and reporting sexual misconduct. His presence reinforces UF’s real sexual assault policy — to silence survivors and embolden rapists. While UF protects this high-profile rapist, they shield themselves from scrutiny over former professor Andrew Lotto, who was recently allowed to quietly resign after he “allegedly assaulted or had inappropriate relationships with multiple women, some of whom were his students,” according to Alligator archives. Lotto, who is white, was allowed to quietly resigned while Thomas, who is black, faced immediate outrage and attempts to block him from campus. If UF was an anti-racist institution, white men in power would be held just as accountable as men of color.
In 2017, UF alumnus and current Columbia journalism graduate student Champe Barton, conducted an Alligator series on sexual assault at UF. He interviewed sorority women who were assaulted by men from different fraternities. Barton’s series revealed a troubling truth about UF’s so-called “sexual assault prevention training”: the fraternity brothers he interviewed did not even remember participating in it. UF’s prevention efforts are ineffective and lack accountability.
Furthermore, these “sexual assault prevention training programs” Fuchs highlights in his column place the responsibility for preventing sexual assault on everyone except rapists. They encourage bystanders to step in, but then blame the victim by telling women about safety precautions we should practice. Don’t tell women not to get raped; Tell men not to rape instead.
We demand that:
UF reinstate former sexual assault advocacy groups, Campus Organized Against Rape (COAR) and Sexual Assault Recover Service (SARS).
UF Law immediately rescind Thomas’ invitation
UF abolish fraternities on campus.
President Kent Fuchs resign.
We agree with Fuchs when he says, “In order for UF to be truly great, it must lead in eliminating sexual assault.” But we disagree with Fuchs on how we will get there. National Women’s Liberation demands stronger rape prevention, better support for victims and accountability from rapists and those who protect them.
Join us at our next meeting, on Dec. 3, 7 p.m. in our office located on 200 NE 1st St, Ste 201 to learn more about our cause.
Alia DeLong is a UF graduate student and member of the National Women’s Liberation.