There has been no shortage of controversy surrounding the Tour de Franzia and the administration’s threat to impose a series of drastic penalties on all individuals who participate. I want to set aside for a moment the discussion about the wisdom and proportionality of the administration’s response. Instead, I want to talk about a small but telling fact that emerged out of Wesleying’s coverage of the dispute. The post noted that the administration threatened to assign a minimum of six judicial points for participation in the Tour. Sexual misconduct, under current policy, is penalized by a minimum of only five points. This, for me, has laid bare a systemic problem with Wesleyan’s policy concerning sexual misconduct.

On a gut level, it feels as if the administration is sending the message, however nominal, that participating in the Tour is a more serious offense than sexually assaulting another human being. I appreciate that the administration is genuinely concerned about the possibility of students harming themselves and the community. The student handbook defines sexual misconduct and assault as “includ[ing] but not limited to sexual coercion, stalking, intimidation, assault, and rape.” The administration may consider suspending or expelling a student who gets 10 points. Obviously, misconduct comes in many forms and perhaps not all of them deserve a penalty of immediate suspension or expulsion.

Regardless, there is a difference in scale between participation in a binge-drinking event and sexual misconduct. The second involves a violation of the survivor’s consent and carries the potential to destroy a victim’s sense of self, safety, and bodily autonomy. Self-inflicted harm should never be punished more severely than the threat or action of inflicting damage on another human being.

Some people argue that a narrow focus on the number of judicial points that the university assigns for these two types of violations is reductionist, unproductive, and not indicative of how the University actually regards sexual assault. However, what makes this juxtaposition appropriate is not really the point differential, but rather the frenzied urgency and immense effort that Wesleyan has put into prevention and education about the Tour, an effort that is consistently lacking in cases of sexual assault and misconduct. I have probably received a dozen emails from administrators, deans, and even University chaplains asking me not to participate in the Tour. I don’t recall a similar outpouring of effort around issues of respect and consent when an incident of sexual assault was reported at Beta. The University has enlisted seemingly every resource to educate us about the harms of the Tour and to dissuade us from taking part. I wish we would see a similar all-hands-on-deck mentality, a similar absolute resolve, regarding instances of sexual assault.

The administration might respond to this critique by pointing out that the Tour is an extraordinary event, and that it justifies this one-time reaction. That, in my mind, is exactly the problem. That attitude accepts sexual assault as an inevitable part of campus life that we might be able to influence but never eradicate. Sexual assault should never be normal, and acting as if it is normal helps to perpetuate a culture that facilitates more attacks. It is a travesty that not every instance of sexual assault on our campus prompts our administration to react with the same feverish intensity as it is doing for the Tour. Although several efforts occur throughout the year to educate the campus about consent—efforts that should be lauded—members of the administration should wake up every day with an absolute dedication to prevent sexual assault, as they undoubtedly do every morning in spring for the Tour. Every instance of assault is one that ought to serve as a call to arms.

Everyone on and off Wesleyan’s campus deserves a core feeling of safety and security. On a simple level, that means the ability to enter any community without fear of harassment, to display hir body or hir sexuality without fear of assault, and to walk, dance, or sleep anywhere on campus without fear of rape. However, we also deserve a guarantee that in the event that harassment, assault, or rape occurs in this community, the University will support us fully, that the administration will spare no effort or expense to restore our sense of safety and reach out to a community that has been collectively wronged. In the future, I want to see the University mobilize its resources, both human and material, to educate students and community members, initiate dialogue, and bring students together with the same intense urgency that it is now doing for the Tour. They should do so in a way that does not expose survivors to more scrutiny and embarrassment. Right now, sadly, I think the University is coming up short on both counts.

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