Over the past two days, I have had countless discussions regarding the task force report released by Boston University. I worked for over two years as the BU men’s hockey beat writer for The Daily Free Press, and during that time, I was able to get to know the team a little better than your average fan, thus meaning people constantly ask me questions about the team.
However, after two players were arrested within 10 weeks of each other last winter, I was definitely just as troubled as the average BU student. It’s hard to comprehend the types of crimes the two players were accused of, and it was hard to walk to class every day with news trucks lined up along campus.
I felt that BU had to do something about the arrests, but from the beginning, I did not believe the task force was the way to go. Here we had two arrests stemming from separate and completely different incidents of sexual assault, and rather than establishing an immediate plan for handling sexual assault on campus, the president decided to look into the culture of the hockey team. But to believe that sexual assault was an issue isolated to the hockey team was ridiculous, and the task force proved that to be true. It ultimately found nothing about BU hockey itself that caused the two incidents.
If you read the papers, you’ll see a different story. According to the media, the task force did find plenty wrong with the BU hockey culture. They have decided to run with the story that there is a culture of sexual entitlement among some BU hockey players and that the hockey players are held to a lower academic standard and isolated on campus from the rest of the BU students.
To a degree, those statements are true. When it comes to housing, the players are indeed somewhat isolated. They room with each other – freshmen in Shelton Hall, sophomores on Bay State Road and juniors and seniors in Student Village I – throughout their BU career. However, the hockey players share floors with other students, and the rooms of hockey players are scattered among different floors in each building.
And, just like every other competitive college athlete in this country, the BU hockey players do not all live up to the academic standards expected of your average BU student. Furthermore, like many college-aged students, the team tends to be sexually promiscuous.
I personally don’t see any of those issues as a problem specific to the hockey team or the sexual assaults. The task force acknowledged as much. They said there were no NCAA violations, and the issues found with the hockey team at BU are commonplace at any college.
The root of the issue here has nothing to do with housing or academics or even hockey. The root of the issue is that college-aged men and women get drunk and do stupid things, and unfortunately, people end up being sexually assaulted. It happens nationwide, and it happened at Boston University. It wasn’t just the hockey team. BU had multiple reports of rape and assault aside from just the two incidents related to the hockey team. Don’t forget about the Peeping Tom in Warren Towers or the reported assault at Mugar library shortly after the second hockey player’s arrest.
BU had to respond last winter in some way in order to prove to people that they were doing something about the issue, but was forming the task force effective and was it targeting the right problem?
As an alumna of BU (I graduated in May), I can say from a student’s perspective, I do not believe BU targeted the sexual assault issue effectively. After much protest on campus last year including an online petition that over 1,000 students signed, the university finally created an on-campus center for sexual assault prevention and education. This happened 2 ½ months after the second arrest. The task force was created just days after the arrest. Since the on-campus center to combat sexual assault was created months before the results of the task force were released, I assume the sexual assault center was not the central focus of the task force.
While the task force investigated hockey culture, BU students continued to lack sexual assault protection on campus. After the second hockey player was arrested, one student attempted to use BU’s only known system at the time for reporting some sort of assault: the Student Health Services crisis hotline. The student (who was testing the system and was never actually in danger) asked for resources available for victims of rape and sexual assault and was told by the person on the hotline that none were available through BU.
I personally noticed a lack of attention to the issue of sexual assault from BU. Last winter, a devastating fire in an off-campus apartment belonging to BU students ended up destroying all of the students’ belongings and seriously injuring at least one student. Those students called their parents before calling 911 about the fire. Less than a day after the fire, I received an email from BU briefing me on fire safety.
Why did that never happen with the sexual assault issue? Never once did I get an email educating me on what to do in case of sexual assault on campus. Who should I call? I still have no idea. What is the best way to avoid situations in which I may be sexually assaulted? It seems like common sense to me on how to avoid situations in which I may be at risk of sexual assault, but it also seems like common sense to me to call 911 in case of a fire.
And so while it’s all well and good that the task force has come up with all kinds of suggestions as to how to better academically integrate the hockey team with the rest of the university, it still seems to me that the task force missed the point. It appears as if BU conducted this whole task force in order to say they’d done something but swept the issue of sexual assault on-campus to the side.