Senior Cocktails, faculty engagement, Espwesso, and the state of Wesleyan society.
The media has been having a field day with last Friday’s Senior Cocktails. History, at least as it is popularly understood, often influences the character of the future, so this article seeks to illuminate three brief bits of historical meaning. The first involves the intent of the Allbritton cafe now called Espwesso. The second, an old norm of behavior between faculty and students. And finally, the origins of Senior Cocktails, the third. All told, these elements collectively form the tale of a beautiful and normative aspect of Wesleyan society that aged, became tarnished, and eventually disappeared.
I titled this “The Bridge on the Drina,” after the Ivo Andric historical novel of the same name, for reasons that will hopefully be clear by the end of the article.
Allbritton, Wesleyan’s Kapia
As you might expect, the centerpiece of Andric’s novel is a bridge across the Drina river, lying athwart the town of Višegrad near the border between Bosnia and Serbia. This bridge serves in analogy for many aspects of Ottoman rule in the Balkans (and some of these I will reference later on), but for now its importance lies in the kapia, the widened center of the bridge. Upon the kapia sit the people of the town, resting on benches of carved stone, chatting, sipping coffee and plum brandy bought from the vendor’s stand, and conducting business of both great and little import. The kapia is as central to the society of the town as it is to the bridge itself.
So it was to be with cafe space allotted on the bottom floor of Allbritton.
I saw some horrifying data yesterday.
AlcoholEdu. Ever heard of it? Unless you’re a senior, you did it. Here are some of the results:
In August of 2010, a full 8.65% of the incoming freshman Class of 2014 reported having been taken advantage of sexually, in one form or another, during the preceding two weeks while drinking. Fast forward two months into their first semester, that figure jumped to 13.48%, again during only the preceding two weeks. A similar jump occurred for the incoming freshman Class of 2015 a year later (going from 8.80% to 14.16%) and then again this year for the incoming freshman Class of 2016 (going from 4.49% to 10.49%). Even more chilling were the accompanying figures: 8.46% of the incoming Class of 2014 self-reported having taken advantage of someone sexually in the preceding two weeks, and this figure only dropped by 1.06% two months into school. For the freshman Class of 2015, the starting figure was only 4.28%, but then this number increased to 9.09% after two months, a similar trend reflected this year in the Class of 2016 (starting at 4.20% and increasing to 6.23%).
These self-reported, population-wide figures indicate that approximately 100 incidents of sexual misconduct occur during any two week period at Wesleyan for members of the freshman class alone, and only including those occasions when alcohol was involved.
I’ve written about the monstrosity of sexual assault before. It’s (sadly) been a frequent (and pressing) topic of conversation in the college blogosphere of late. I don’t need to re-hash everything — it’s in the links — but clearly the subject merits continued conversation (as if that was ever unclear). Let’s review some basic facts:
- Sexual assault is bad.
- Sexual assault should not be permitted or perpetrated.
- Sexual assault is both permitted (culturally) and perpetrated (constantly).
A fourth crucial fact is that you (yes, you) are responsible, just like everyone else, for the prevention of sexual assault. And boy-oh-boy is it preventable.
A few weeks ago, a former Wesleyan student filed suit against the University, as well as the national Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, its Mu Epsilon chapter here at Wesleyan, and the Baird Society that owns the building and grounds occupied by Mu Epsilon. In a nutshell, the suit alleges that the University and the other parties did not take sufficient action to prevent the rape of the former student at a Halloween Party at Beta in October of 2010. The coverage of this lawsuit, by Wesleying and by local and national news sources, involves a Brobdingnagian array of diverse but connected issues. I’m going to try to touch on as many as I can. I will inevitably sound preachy at particular points, and for that I apologize in advance.
I really hope that these statements are unnecessary, but here goes: sexual assault, like pretty much any kind of assault, is problematic and unacceptable. The environment in which sexual assault remains possible is likewise problematic and unacceptable.
This post attempts to make those things a little bit clearer, comments on the subject in light of recent events, and includes many of my own opinions tying this particular issue to broader and equally terrifying patterns of college/youth/generational/human attitude that underlie the culture of permissible rape. This post is long. You should read it anyway.
Let’s start with some facts:
- Millions of rapes occur every year, both forcible (as noted in the image above) and non-forcible. The vast majority are perpetrated by men against women, though still significant numbers of rapes are perpetrated by women against men and by men against men or women against women.
- About one in four women will be subject to a sexual assault in their lifetimes. About one in six men will be subject to the same. [United States Department of Justice]
- About one in five women at a college or university will be subject to a sexual assault during their years at school.
- A 1991 study found that 76% of boys and 56% of girls in high school believe that forced sex is acceptable under certain conditions. These “certain conditions” typically included ‘if those involved had been dating for at least six months’ and/or ‘if he spent a lot of money on her.’ [Parrot & Bechhofer, 1991]
- Sexual assault survivors are typically acquainted with the perpetrator beforehand, oftentimes being friends or even in a long-term relationship.
- Both individuals have typically consumed alcohol or other substances (about three in four perpetrators and one in two survivors). [Abbey et al., 1998]
- In most studies, large percentages of survivors interviewed that described an incident meeting the study’s definition of rape would not themselves term the incident as rape.