On 5/19/2015, Emma Salkowicz, graduated from Columbia University, carrying a mattress she had taken everywhere on campus for the past year as a part of her visual arts thesis. It represented her sexual assault by a fellow senior student who was never convicted or expelled from the campus. She brought attention to a federal complaint levied against the school for failing to properly adjudicate cases of campus assault. Columbia along with 90 other colleges is under federal investigation for violation of Title IX, a law prohibiting gender based sexual assault on college campuses. Schools found guilty of violating this law may lose federal funding.
In November, 2015, the Department of Education for civil rights opened an investigation into two HBCUs, Morehouse and Spelman for failing to promptly and fairly respond to reports of sexual violence on the campuses. Students st Morehouse, Spelman and Clark Atlanta University are demanding that their colleges do more to address sexual violence on the campuses. Students sent administrators a list of demands including protecting, serving and keeping students safe. Spelman's FMLA, Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance spoke out about the alleged rapes that occurred during one month and the ongoing issues of violence. One Spelman student who reported a rape on the Morehouse campus by a Morehouse student was never interviewed in person but was contacted via phone by a company in Massachusetts who was hired to do the investigation. The conclusion was that she wasn't raped.
A recent Buzz Feed article highlighted the impact this crisis is having on black female students, especially those on HBCU's where the reputations of the male population appears to be prioritized over the sexual autonomy and safety of the females. When these articles began appearing, Sevgi asked if I would accept the challenge of researching and writing to these schools, based on my anti Domestic Violence and anti sex trafficking work.
TWS is committed to standing against oppression and building a community to affect change. It's imperative that we protect our youth against this sexual harassment which interferes with their rights to a good education provided in a safe location. We will update the group as we interact with the colleges. We will also be offering workshops and assistance with their campus programs to end the assaults.