The Collegian
Friday, August 14, 2020

Rebuilding our campus

Westhampton College '09

Our university's administration has acted swiftly and proactively to condemn the horrifying sexism and racism in the Kappa Sig e-mail, but administrators can lecture us until they are blue in the face. It's true that it's time for a critical evaluation of campus culture, but until we, the students, take the task upon ourselves, absolutely nothing is going to change.

This Kappa Sig e-mail is NOT gossip. It is not a few "sensitive" women students who are "overreacting" and are "just upset." This e-mail is dripping in toxic prejudice and ignorance that exists not only with one student and his fraternity, but in the entire student culture.

The student who wrote the e-mail is only a pawn in this greater game of sexism at the University of Richmond. He wouldn't have used such language and images if he had not seen them used before.

I do not fear physical violence as much as I do psychological violence. Women on our campus are being continually harassed about their bodies, sexuality and social status. Last spring, Sigma Chi reduced breasts to "boobies" and "ta-tas," badgered and targeted women to donate for breast cancer research, and coerced sororities into raising the money for the fraternity.

And the sexism does not stop. Signs for "Relay for Life," until recently, advertised with demeaning slogans such as "great boobs are worth fighting for." Degrading parties about "hoes" and "wenches" are held regularly. The safety shuttle is instinctively referred to as "the Raper." The theme of (heterosexual) marriage invaded Proclamation Night. Now this horrendous e-mail portrays campus social life in the darkest light.

Furthermore, the UFA creeper is still unaccounted for, but many students still dismiss women's fear about this intruder as "overreacting." This person is not just "some guy" sneaking into our apartments to touch our legs. He represents the larger threat of how vulnerable we are.

It is outrageous to think about how exposed all students are and how deceiving our sense of safety is. The fact that someone can enter into our rooms and catch us off guard is terrifying. We should not dismiss this as women "just being upset."

What kind of community are we fostering at the University of Richmond?

How can we campaign for and champion our University of Richmond to prospective students and their parents if this is an unsafe community for men and women? The safety shuttle and blue emergency lights around campus will not shield anyone from the psychological dangers that are lurking on this campus in the seemingly innocent form of social interaction.

No one should live in fear. I do not want any woman on this campus to have to change her path to go to class, to always be on alert for a man prowling around in the parking lots or to assume every guy is trying to lure her into his room.

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How do we look our international students in the eye in our next class? We are representatives of our school, our states and this country. How does this make Americans look? Pigs? Yep. Hypocrites? Oh yeah. For all the equality and freedom we claim to have, why then are women altering their paths to class, their activities at night?

Yes, the men are not the only group guilty of not speaking up before. We are all responsible for allowing such a culture to exist. Whether you have attended one or seen it on Facebook, you have at some point heard of or been to a party with a sexist, appalling theme. Example? "Professors and School Girls" was a recent theme at a lodge party this semester.

Of course, women need to come together now to support each other and collectively condemn "isms" such as sexism and racism. However, so do the men. I want to know that the men of Richmond College recognize their role in making this campus a safe environment.

I want to see the male student leaders of this campus come forth not to defend their sex, but to assert that this community should be safe for all men and women. Because a few voices are not enough to affect change, we need to respond as a community.

The majority of the men on our campus truly and deeply care about women, but they are being overshadowed by the small minority of chauvinist dirt balls who are treating women as body parts and as lesser beings. The men who make up the silent majority cannot afford to be silent any longer.

I am not "bashing" men. I am challenging the men of Richmond, not the administration, to show this community and their peers that they want our campus to be safe for all members of the University of Richmond and will not accept such intolerance.

Our commons stands where the bridge linking Richmond College to Westhampton College once stood. Where is the bridge now? It has been damaged and it will take both sides, not just women, to come forward and rebuild it. When, men of Richmond, will you join us?

Contact writer Jill Eisenberg at jill.eisenberg@richmond.edu

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