Fri. Jan 28th, 2022

On Tuesday, Sept. 6, all of West Chester University received an email from our Interim President. Within this email, Dr. Christopher Fiorentino addressed and condemned the sexual assault from Labor Day weekend.

Sexual assault is an issue across America, especially on college campuses; West Chester University is no exception. To have a president address and hope to handle this issue is an extremely important part of handling the social issues rape and sexual assault have presented us. Unfortunately, the story is not as simple as the address and prevention of rape, and Dr. Fiorentiono’s introduction of “safety checkpoints” does not reflect the full complexity of the issue. These checkpoints will be instituted by public safety where “officers will speak with groups of students leaving and returning to campus about responsible actions, substance abuse and bystander responsibilities. Random sobriety checks will also occur throughout the weekend.”

To some, at first glance, this might not seem like a bad thing, but it understandably met instant backlash from a large part of the student body. Let it be known: Alcohol does not cause rape, sexual assault or any other form of sexual harassment. However, with some recent events heavily publicized, such as the Stanford sexual assault scandal, a perceived connection is developing between drinking and sexual assault.

Sophomore Allyssa Kovich spoke passionately on the email and the messages it sent: “Girls and Boys who are victims will be even more scared to report their assailants…They [the borough of West Chester] are trying to capitalize by handing out fines and underage.” To the university directly she urges, “Stop this plan.”

In some circumstances, this situation, along with concerns and anger associated with it, might not have escalated past an angry discussion within friend groups or a few frustrated letters, but someone took further action.

On the night of Wednesday, Sept. 7, someone printed out the letter and overlapped “THIS IS NOT THE ANSWER. ALCOHOL DOES NOT CAUSE RAPE” in black font and covered the Ram statue in these papers, along with other various places on campus such as the front door to Ruby Jones. By the next morning, not only was it shared across students’ Twitter and Facebook pages, but there was a Buzzfeed article written about the whole story including a copy of the email and pictures of the printed letter on the statue.

“I understand the mentality behind the decision to implement safety checkpoints, but it’s not protecting students,” College Democrat’s Vice President Kinjal Shah explains. “This [email] implies that the sole cause of rape is alcohol. It won’t solve the problem.”

With all of these developments, it was inevitable that the university and president would respond. On Thursday, Sept. 8, an email was sent out with the subject line “Clarification of Important Memo from Dr. Christopher Fiorentino, Interim President—Re: Sexual Violence and Misconduct.”

Within this memo, Fiorentino stated, “In my effort to address the prevalence of sexual assault and act quickly to create a safer campus, I regret inadvertently implying that alcohol use is the cause of sexual assault. Let me be clear, while alcohol use is a problem on this campus, it is not the cause of sexual assault.”

He additionally addresses the other emphasized point which was concern of the “sobriety checkpoints” and their influences on citations given out. The letter clarifies that “public safety will not be out to aggressively police alcohol consumption,” but instead to “be present to improve relations between themselves and the student body and increase dialogue around health and safety in this community.”

Elizabeth Gibson is a second-year student majoring in political science. She can be reached at EG850161@wcupa.edu.

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