University leaders are experts at ignoring the real problem
Removing Bill Cosby’s honorary degree is a small start
On September 28, President Christina Paxson sent a community-wide email announcing that the university would be joining several other schools across the nation by revoking Bill Cosby’s honorary doctorate from 1985.
Paxson expressed in her email that Cosby “has engaged in conduct with women that is contrary to the values of Brown” and that “the conduct that Mr. Cosby has acknowledged is wholly inconsistent with the behavior we expect of any individual associated with Brown.”
However, the truth is that current policies and processes for the handling of sexual assault cases seem to let perpetrators escape unscathed.
Though Brown recently appointed Amanda Walsh as the University’s first Title IX program officer, this was only in response to harsh criticism from the press and retaliation from staff and student activists on campus.
According to a recent survey from the Association of American Universities (AAU), 49 percent of the students polled felt that their reports would not be taken seriously by the university, 25.6 percent believe it likely that campus officials would conduct a fair investigation in the case of a report and only 24.8 percent of all students believe it extremely likely that campus officials would take action against the assailant.
There is an inherent problem when victims do not even feel comfortable enough to come forward.
While on the surface all of these changes are a positive step forward, they do not do much for what is currently happening on campus — it cannot end at symbolism.
As senior Emily Schell said in an interview: “We need to make sure we are implementing the same community values we talked about when revoking Cosby’s degree on our own campus and with perpetrators here … it’s a start to symbolically punish perpetrators, but unless perpetrators are being held accountable here as well and survivors are being given (timely) justice, then the symbolic gesture has no meaning.”
She continued: “No policy change is going to change the level of institutional trust a student body has for its administration — it’s going to take the administration earning that trust back by acting on those values that President Paxson stated so clearly in that email.”
With constant reports of the university mishandling sexual assault cases, it truly is difficult to believe that any real change can occur. Just as it is not enough to wave a magic wand and hope that everything will go away, it is not enough to participate in one publicity stunt in an effort to hide the school’s past issues with sexual assault.
If and when there is notable change in the sexual assault climate on campus, then we will be truly satisfied with the revocation of Cosby’s degree.