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Duke, Let’s Talk About Sex

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Duke, Let’s Talk About Sex

With a clear, verbal "yes"

Harrison Labban

12.5.16

Duke Student Government (DSG) recently considered amending the current sexual assault policy to require a clear, verbal “yes” to constitute consent. Reportedly, student governments at other universities nationwide are now considering similar guidelines. In light of the multitudinous programs and policies already in place at Duke, why has the situation not improved? Why is it that Duke students and DSG feel the need for additional measures?

According to U.S. News and World Report, Duke is the 8th best academic institution in the United States. However, research done by The State of Education (TSE), a data science startup aimed to inform prospective college students, and Trojan's Sexual Health Report Card shed light on a darker side of Duke. According to their results, Duke is not one of the top 10 universities for sexual health.

Duke’s absence on the “top 10” lists is shocking, especially for a university which seems to dedicate so much of its resources to sex education and sexual assault prevention. After all, if HAVEN and the Women’s Center’s “U a.s.k. Duke” smartphone app are not solving the problem, what will? The problem may cut deeper into the heart of Duke’s brokenness than a new software will ever be able to heal.

In recent years, America has looked to schools of national prominence for leadership in the area of sexual assault prevention. Duke’s 2006 lacrosse scandal left the university vulnerable from a public relations position. After the 2015 documentary film "The Hunting Ground" brought sexual assault to the forefront of prospective college students’ minds, more and more initiatives began to fall into place.

HAVEN, an online course program intended to address the critical issues of sexual violence and harassment, is required for all freshman students before enrolling in classes at Duke. Male-identifying undergraduates are required to attend a sexual assault prevention meeting before registering to rush fraternities in the Spring. With all theses measures in place, how has Duke not risen to the top of the “10 best” list?

Duke seems to have the same question. Last year, the University administration sent out a “campus climate survey” via email, as have many universities nationwide. Questions ranged from whether an individual has experienced sexual assault to general concern about the prevalence of such harassment on campus.

Despite demands from students, faculty, the Women’s Center, PASH, and various other campus organizations, Duke has not released data regarding the current “campus climate.”

And so, once again, the little guys must stand with the weight of the world on their shoulders. Students and student governments are choosing to take matters into their own hands, after years of debate and administrative policy have, seemingly, gotten us nowhere. Maybe amending the policy to more clearly delineate consent will begin to solve the problems we are facing, but maybe it will not.

Sometimes, putting pressure on the system is all you can do, until others decide the work you are doing is worth investing in. Until then, nationally, 1 in 5 female-identifying college students will continue to report sexual harassment or assault during their college careers. Until then, students will fight, and students will sacrifice their time and energy to protect themselves and their peers-–even though that's not their job.

Because it’s worth it.

This article was modified on December 6, 2016 to reflect the fact that while TSE ranks Duke the 8th most sexually unhealthy university in America, their research methods were based solely on information for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did account for the resources outside of Student Health, such as the Student Wellness Center (DUWELL), CAPS, and the Women's Center.