University of Virginia Tries To Understand Its Zero Tolerance Policy To Sex Crimes
Don’t the police deal with crimes? The University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors on Tuesday is adopting a “zero-tolerance policy toward sexual assault”.
What does that mean? Sexual assault is a crime. Call the police. Is the University of Virginia saying it used to tolerate crime?
“The Board of Visitors adopted a zero-tolerance approach toward sexual assault at the university today,” Anthony de Bruyn, a university spokesman, said. “The details of the approach and how it is articulated and implemented will be refined in the near term in collaboration with the university adiminstration.”
The decision came during a three-hour emergency board meeting held about a week after the publication of a Rolling Stone article that detailed a gang rape at a U.Va. fraternity in 2012. While the meeting’s focus was ostensibly on how to change the campus culture surrounding sexual assault, much of the afternoon was spent specifically discussing alcohol abuse.
“We have to address the issue of alcohol consumption,” George Keith Martin, the board’s rector (or board chair), said at the meeting’s start. “There’s a clear correlation between alcohol consumption and sexual conduct.”..
“Sexual assault is a serious cultural problem within fraternities,” Reid said. “It’s a product of attitudes, an unawareness of gender norms, and a lack of safety in our environment that we as students must commit to changing. Our university is in the wilderness right now. It’s students on the ground level, not hiding from our inadequacies but confronting them, that will lead us out of this wilderness.”
What is zero tolerance?
Some faculty reacted with incredulity to the board’s decision to adopt a zero-tolerance policy without elaborating at all on what it means. In a web chat on the university’s website, one faculty member questioned whether the board had thought through what such a policy meant. Another faculty member, Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media studies professor at U.Va., said he suspected the resolution would make people “feel like U.Va. actually changed something meanginful,” even if it did not.
“I can’t decide if it’s a real policy or a fake one that would only serve to raise expectations and yield terrible embarrassment when the university finds it cannot meet such a standard,” Vaidhyanathan said. “If it’s a real policy, it forces a wide array of circumstances, victims’ needs, and conditions into a single, simple, faulty algorithm. Nobody seems to know what ‘zero tolerance’ means in practice. I suspect it has no teeth to it.”
Call the police.