College reacts to ‘The Hunting Ground’
Written by Talia Schmitt|
March 3, 2015
The William and Mary Global Film Festival screened the critically acclaimed film “The Hunting Ground” Feb. 22. “The Hunting Ground” is a documentary about the reality of sexual assault on college campuses. More than 200 students, administrators, Greek life leaders and faculty members gathered in Andrews Hall 101 to watch the film and listen to Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, the film’s protagonists. Both survived sexual assault in college and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill.
Pino and Clark spoke to the audience about rape culture on college campuses. In particular, they spoke of the dismissal of such events by college administrations in an effort to safeguard school reputation. Pino and Clark sued the University of North Carolina through Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX prohibits sexual discrimination, including harassment and assault, in any activity that receives federal funding. They also founded the organization End Rape on Campus to combat sexual assault and provide a safe space for rape victims during a time when, according to National Public Radio, only 10-25 percent of men found responsible for sexual assault on college campuses were expelled.
“We’ve yet to have one college president step up and say, ‘This is an issue on our campus,’” Clark said.
After watching the film, President Reveley challenged that notion in a brief interview.
“We recognize the problem exists and we are working on it tooth and claw. Heaven knows money is not standing in our way,” Reveley said.
Last spring, the College of William and Mary was added to the list of 55 institutions under investigation for Title IX noncompliance. The following fall, President Reveley appointed the Task Force for Preventing Sexual Assault and Harassment with a core of 20 members. The task force is made up of faculty members, two undergraduate students and one graduate student This year, the Task Force commenced initiatives such as requiring faculty to attend sexual assault training, instituting a minimum sentence of two semesters for sexual assault or harassment and increasing education and outreach.
Students and faculty have also worked to open The Haven and several other student organizations to provide safe spaces for those impacted by sexual violence or harassment.
“We really want students to feel like they have a place to come to,” Assistant to the Vice President Jodi Fisler said. “There is a spot on the Task Force website for students to make suggestions and contact the committee.”
Fisler chairs the Task Force subcommittee on campus climate.
American studies PhD candidate Kate Previti is a rape survivor and the co-programmer and distribution manager for the W&M Global Film Festival.
“The fact that all these different students, administrators, and faculty members came on their own accord, really says something. We showed that we can’t look away anymore and we’re breaking the silence; conversation is happening,” Previti said.
The film also reveals higher levels of sexual assault among college athletes and fraternity members.
“I recognize that there is a problem on campus, but I am hopeful that Greek life can move to be part of the solution,” Interfraternity Council President Paul Naisbitt ’17 said.
Next week, members of the Interfraternity Council will meet with the task force to have an open conversation about sexual assault on campus. The police department chief also stood up to add to the conversation during the question and answer session with Pino and Clark.
“We will do everything humanly possible to prevent this from happening to you, and we will be there with you if it does every step of the way,” William and Mary Chief Police Officer Deborah Cheesebro said.
A student in the audience shared their disagreement with Cheesebro’s remarks.
“I went with someone to report something to the police here and had a horrendous experience. After what happened, I could never, ever, responsibly tell a survivor to go to the William and Mary police department after what I witnessed,” Brittney Harrington ’15 said.
Pino and Clark stayed an extra 30 minutes to talk with survivors and interested students.
“We are here to hold each other accountable,” Previti said. “We’re at a moment where there is a movement afoot. It’s important that this conversation continues.”