I’m the father of a young woman in her freshman year at Eckerd. I’ve followed the UVA story, and the ones that have preceded it (JMU, etc), with deep interest and growing concern/anger. What happened to these girls has been one of my biggest fears with my daughter as she became a teenager, and even more so as she went off to college. With all of this talk happening in the national spotlight (as it should), the last thing I expected was to see a letter you sent to the Eckerd community add fuel to the fire.
As a father, it’s my job to prepare her for these situations in a way that minimizes her exposure. This includes warning her to be aware of her surroundings, avoid drinking things she didn’t handle from the start, fending off an attacker, etc. All of those conversations were based on a premise I made very clear in each of our discussions: when a young woman is assaulted in any way, the blame lies squarely on the attacker. My advice was preventative to help her better understand these situations and hopefully avoid them, it was never to sound like if something were to happen, it would be because she did something wrong. To make it sound like that not only places blame on the wrong person, it also makes it less likely that the victim will report the crime.
That’s where your letter to our kids failed them. By now you’ve heard this a thousand times, but I felt it important that you hear it from the father of a young woman in your community. No means no, and drinking is no excuse for taking advantage of a woman. Period. Your letter was written from the perspective of a past generation, and failed to address that this epidemic needs to be dealt with at the source. Parents need to teach their sons to respect women, and if they see a pattern of possible abuse in their child, to do something about it, not sweep it under the rug and hope that it will work itself out, as “boys will be boys” is an unacceptable cop-out. Schools also need to step up and deal with warning signs and accusations in a way that shows these scumbags their actions will not be tolerated.
I’m not writing this to call for your head. Yet. I have no idea how effective of a college president you are, but the well-written response by the editors of The Current gives me the impression that these people do respect you in your role. Maybe that’s misguided, or maybe it’s been earned. I’m in no position to make that call at this point. What your letter does show, however, is that you’re out of touch with the current generation, which in my eyes makes you an ineffective leader for Eckerd on this issue. My ask is that you hire someone who does understand the issue and is in touch with the current generation of students, someone who can affect real change and get the community talking in a positive way, and most importantly is trusted by the students. Should the unthinkable happen, this person should also have the authority to properly deal with this situation and bring the accused to justice. The well being of the victim(s) and ensuring justice is served is far more important than protecting a school’s endowment and/or reputation.
Thank you for your time,
An Eckerd College father.