Category Archives: On Campus Issues

“The Hunting Ground”: A Horror Pseudo-Documentary on a Serious Issue

By Sabrina Schnurr

Summary

CNN’s The Hunting Ground focuses on the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses in America and the way colleges neglect to address it. The documentary seeks to highlight the roles that money and reputation play in college administrations’ choices while chronicling the journey of Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, two former students at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who filed a Title IX complaint and sparked a movement against sexual assault on college campuses. The film criticizes schools’ actions while also examining the culture of fraternities and college athletes. The Hunting Ground includes testimony from many student victims of sexual assault, as well as interviews with psychologists, authors, professors, administrators, police officers, and parents. Lady Gaga recorded a Grammy-nominated original song, “Till It Happens to You,” for the film.

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The film opens like a blockbuster thriller: a montage of high schoolers and their families happily opening college acceptances immediately sets the scene for the emotional rollercoaster to come. Even the title itself establishes fears in viewers. Dramatic images of a doorknob and bathroom tile resemble that of a crime scene remake on a television drama, and voice-overs telling terrifying stories contrast with their corresponding montages of beautiful campus scenery. All in all, the film is hard to watch. Images of fraternity signs reading “sexual assault expected” and “thank you for your daughters” land a giant knot in viewers’ stomachs, and specifically, one father’s account of his daughter’s suicide is heart-wrenching and almost impossible to listen to. In this regard, the film does what it was made to do: draw an emotional reaction from audiences.

However, this emotional reaction is then irresponsibly paired with a quick hero-ending and a weak focus on the facts. Almost instantaneously, two students at UNC transition from broken victims to national heroes taking on Title IX to solve college rape; the ending segment presents a suddenly uplifting montage of women standing up. A quick cut between the national map of reported campus sexual assaults and the nearly identical homemade map hanging in the students’ apartment serves as comforting, but irresponsible closure. While these young women may have started a movement, this ending segment credits them — and solely them — with “solving” college sexual assault.

After this quick transition, women are suddenly shown strongly standing up and taking action, and administrators (formerly pessimistic about the future of the issue) suddenly see an optimistic solution. Footage of President Obama giving an address on the issue and a montage of new federal investigations into colleges make it seem as though these national achievements were a direct result of only these two students’ mission. Visually, this creates a false cause-and-effect relationship, in which the middle step is never shown. Where is the mention of Emma Sulkowicz, the student who started a movement in 2014 after carrying her mattress around campus after being assaulted? What about all the administrators, politicians, families, reporters, and students that played a role in this movement (a movement which started long before these young women even started college)?

The journey of the two students at UNC did not happen in a vacuum, but they are portrayed as if they did. Gillian Greensite, director of rape prevention education at UC Santa Cruz, notes that the first peak of activism in the rape-crisis movement occurred after the Civil War. Considering how these incidents are analyzed in isolation, the film lacks a rational evaluation of the then-current state of discussion about sexual assault and consequently, does these victims a giant disservice. Its happy ending also does not leave room for future discussion of this issue. Sexual assault is a dynamic problem in the United States; recently Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the administration was formally withdrawing Obama-era campus sexual assault direction.

In addition, it has been argued that many of the statistics used in the film are outdated or merely inaccurate. Slate’s Emily Yoffe, who also writes for the Atlantic, spoke to Alyssa Keehan, director of research at United Educators — a higher education insurance group that recently released a study of 305 sexual assault claims they received from 104 schools over three years. Keehan noted that the “most common narrative you hear” — institutions not caring about sexual assault — might not be true. Their data found that when a formal complaint is brought against a student, he is found guilty 45 percent of the time, and when that happens, the attacker is given the “most severe penalty available” (expulsion or suspension) over 80 percent of the time. Nonetheless, while the choice of statistics used in the film can be arguably biased or inaccurate, it can hardly be debated that some are outdated. Specifically, in a portion of the film discussing student athletes as the prime attackers who get away with assault, two statistics are held onscreen; these statistics date back to 1993, over twenty years before the film was released. In using this data, the filmmakers ignore how college culture has changed tremendously in the past twenty years and continue to deny the viewer of a fully-informed, unbiased discussion on college sexual assault.

Any documentary has a responsibility to be fact-based, and in conveniently excluding major pieces of the investigations noted, the film loses its legitimacy and sabotages its powerful message. For example, a large piece of the film focuses on the rape allegation against Jameis Winston, a former Florida State University quarterback who was found not responsible after a criminal investigation. His accuser, Erica Kinsman, went public saying that after drinking a shot at an off-campus bar she started feeling strange and was “fairly certain there was something in that drink.” However, the filmmakers fail to note that two toxicology reports found that she had no drugs in her system nor do they reveal that at the December hearing, Kinsman did not insist that she was drugged or unconscious. Granted, these young women are beyond brave for speaking out about their experiences; sexual assault on college campuses is a real problem that needs to be addressed. Yet while testimony from real victims has raw, emotional power, it isn’t enough. If the students are looking to inform the public about this very serious issue, an ethical stance of fairness does not leave room for picking and choosing what critical pieces get included.

Ultimately, The Hunting Ground does its viewers a disservice by focusing on passion over information. In a world where the media rules our daily lives, documentary-makers have an ethical responsibility to provide fact-based films. However, some could argue that the pushback from schools on the accuracy of things mentioned in the film perhaps proves the film’s point: colleges do not want to put their reputations on the line by addressing this very real issue. Yet, in terms of the film itself, it poses serious questions about bias and our consumption of media. Can a documentary still be a good documentary if it only presents one side of the story? Additionally, Emily Yoffe brought up an interesting point in an NPR interview: what does this mean for CNN? This news network is attempting to present the film as a “fair exploration of an important subject,” but it very easily might not be “fair” at all.

 

Featured image by Christopher Serra, courtesy of the LA Times.

The Ultimate Move of BU’s Lady Pilots

By Priest Gooding

It is often with reproach that Feminism is received in contemporary conversation—c, a rebuke is made against the (usually false) idea that feminism is an Unterdrücker of men. There are various self-described “meninists” and intellectuals alike who reject the idea of feminism and the pursuits of feminists, often under the aforementioned pretense; even classical feminists (those of the second-wave cloth) often meet contemporary (so-called third-wave) feminism with contention. Certainly there exist those extremes of feminism which do fall under the pretense of Unterdrücker; however, these are, as stated, extremes. Nonetheless, the very volatile environment in which feminism exists today demonstrates the need for critical and dialectical conversation. Especially if feminism wishes to achieve its ends, there must be a social discussion (indeed, such is required to define the exact ends themselves of the movement!) of feminism. Lo! This is the exact stance (or purpose) of Boston University’s “Women’s Ultimate (Lady Pilots)”and their dialectical series of “Why I Need Feminism”, which includes women and men.

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In the vein of those so-called “meninists” and anti-feminists who seem to have popularized the posting of photos on the internet which display them holding signs which state why they do not need feminism, Boston University’s “Women’s Ultimate” have begun this series by having females and males post photos in which the individual presents a sign explaining why they do need feminism. The ultimate (pardon the pun) goal of this project is, according to the group, to help “people understand the definition of the word and movement of feminism, [which] is: the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women EQUAL to those of men.” It is, thus, a project dedicated to dispelling the myths of feminist oppression, as well as those extremes of feminism, the Hasserinnen, which often become the embodiment of feminism for those against the movement.

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This organization, then, represents the necessary feminist dialogue in the pursuit of defending feminism from its often misguided detractors and misguided proponents. But what are the merits of such dialogue? Not only does such a project provide a counter to the “Why I do not need feminism” proclamations, it also demonstrates an intersectionality which is often absent from the extremes of feminism—that is, it presents the ultimate goal of feminism qua itself: the equality of man and of woman. This is a meta-project, then, which demonstrates feminism qua feminism, and feminism in terms of its merits and ideals—a sure way to initiate the very necessary discussion of feminism as a movement.

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This project is a rather stunning achievement, both of feminism and of college-age feminists alike. We look to the Boston University “Women’s Ultimate” with hope that they may ignite the passion of others, and that we may begin a serious and critical discussion on feminism and all that it represents. Let us be reminded of those great words of encouragement: “To the daring belongs the future.”[1]

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[1] Attributed to Emma Goldman

Source of pictures: https://www.facebook.com/buladypilots/?fref=ts

New England Women’s Center Conference

When: Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013
Where: Photonics Building 8 Saint Mary’s St, Boston,MA

Boston University’s Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism (CGSA) is hosting the New England Women’s Center Conference.

The conference “will be hosting speakers and organizations to discuss the importance of communities in the area that foster safer spaces for all individuals regardless of gender. We aim to do so by deconstructing the intersections of oppression and privilege in our communities and cultures.” – facebook page

Register at newcc2013.eventbrite.com and go to newcc2013.org for details

We were throwin…

We were throwing this rager at my friend’s house last week. There was this hot chick there dancing super slutty. As the night went on she got worse and worse and guys were giving her shots left and right. Later on I decided to try my luck and take her up to a bed room. At this point she was shit faced and I only had a couple of beers. We got to the room, shut the door, and she threw herself onto the bed. This was my chance. She sprawled out over the covers, mumbling words I couldn’t understand. I knew she wouldn’t remember any of this the next morning, so with a half grin on my face I did what any guy would do…I sat her up to make sure she puked, gave her some water, and tucked that bitch in and said good night. Sexual assault is not cool.

Finally! A meme we can get behind. Thanks, BU Confessor #2904, even if you did steal this from Reddit somewhere.

SMG’s Inception: a “More Men Movement”

Here’s some interesting BU history for you from an article in SMG’s magazine Everett:

SMG was founded in an effort to make BU less of a “girls’ college”.

In 1910, there were nine times more female students at BU than there were male students. Then a group of “concerned alumni” formed and began the “More Men Movement”. They did a survey of high school boys to learn what they wanted to get out of their college experience, and found that they wanted practical courses which would prepare them for careers in business. The business world was, of course, not accessible to women in this era, so classes in accounting, finance, and business principles did their job in attracting men, and repelling women. The College of Business Administration, as it was called at the time, enrolled 247 students, 40 of whom were female in its first year, 1913. Problem solved!

Today, SMG is 45% female, and it does seem that as the next century begins, it is time for a “More Women Movement”.

The Daily Free Press controversy regarding its coverage of sexual assault and other crimes

Two days ago, this article was published on xoJane.  

A Boston University student relates her account of how the student newspaper, The Daily Free Press, reported the incident of her sexual assault using “a pun involving a popular rap song that describes the sexual appeal of a woman’s body” in the crime logs section.

Shockingly, this was not the first time that the DFP had trivialized a crime with a catchy pun or phrase.  The author of the article gives several other examples of this practice.  She goes on to say that when she brought it up to one of the student managing editors, she was told “that’s just what they’re like.”

The author’s words:

I felt less-than-human. The day in my life that I was sexually assaulted marked a before-and-after divider in how I felt about myself as a human being and as a woman, and this thoughtless, demeaning description of it by somebody who is a fellow student and supposed “journalist” minimized it to a fucking RAP PUN. This was over a year and a half ago, and I am still livid.

The DFP issued  an apology, declaring that they would put an end to this practice of satirizing crimes by updating the past headlines as well as only using serious ones in the future.  They also “plan to begin mandatory sensitivity training for new editors at the start of each semester.”

However, the issue doesn’t seem solved to us or the author of the xoJane post, who stated that “the apology did not come off as very sincere and I remain unhappy with them and their conduct.”

What exactly will this sensitivity training consist of?  As aptly put by one of the comments on the DFP’s apology: “I’m not sure how sensitivity training will help anyone who finds humor in rape, hate crimes & violence.”  And it seems that the real issue is with the current editors who were the ones who actually wrote the offensive tag-lines.

As a BU student, I want my school to be the type of community where things like this wouldn’t fly in the first place.  Why have issues as serious as sexual assault been insensitively trivialized by the DFP on multiple occasions?  Let alone, once?

The DFP is a student newspaper.  It should be the voice of the student body – it shouldn’t alienate students with such blatantly offensive and distasteful content.

We at Hoochie will endeavor to hold the DFP to its promise to “improve its coverage of student affairs, its reputation and credibility and its sensitivity to crimes that continue to plague our campus.”

Please do not hesitate to contact us at BUHoochieWoman@gmail.com if you wish to be a part of our effort to improve the BU community.