I find myself in a complex in terms of the Campus Climate Watch available for Denison students to view on MyDenison. On the one hand, I am impressed by the level of transparency – that we can see what goes on at Denison and how our culture is affected by numerous incidents.
On the other hand, this strong level of transparency scares me. Do we really want to read about a girl being “raped by two men” last spring or about a “sorority hazing” that resulted in the loss of that chapter? When my friends and I finished perusing Campus Climate Watch, our heads were swimming. Did we know these young women who had been sexually assaulted? Worse, did we know any of the men who had assaulted them? How would we react to the people that we knew that had their sorority chapter suspended for hazing? And what did all of this say about the community we were living in?
Campus Climate Watch is a wake up call for Denison. As a freshman, I remembered thinking that Denison was perfect. Freedom from the rules of my parents house, new people, new classes, new experiences. I remembered bursting out of the back doors of Curtis East and Smith with my friends as we headed to the Sunset apartments for parties and memories. Not once did we think about a racial slur being carved into bathroom walls. Not once did we imagine offensive things about a person’s religion on a display board in a residence hall. Not once did we fathom that someone could be raped that night.
I am ashamed to admit that I’m not ready for the wake up call that Campus Climate Watch is thrusting in front of me. I want my fantasy of a perfect Denison to persist. I want Denison to be like the glossy brochures that I thumbed through, frantically trying to decide which college was right for me. Denison students always lobby for more transparency. It’s been on the platform of almost every DCGA candidate. But are we really ready for this transparency? Are we really ready for the truth? As Jack Nicholson famously exclaimed in A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth!”
Denison, is it that we can’t handle the truth? Or do we want to ignore it? Many of us probably have never viewed the Campus Climate Watch. Some of us would look at those reports, roll our eyes, and call them isolated incidents. It has disturbed me to hear some of the responses to incidents on this campus. A young man on my floor said this of a campus wide e-mail about a girl being raped while intoxicated: “If you’re drunk and you hook up, its not rape…You just don’t remember it.” A friend of mine once referred to people’s anger over racial slurs being carved into bathroom stalls as “making a mountain out of a molehill.” We have to do better. And we have to wake up. We cannot continue to think of Denison in the rigid terms of the classroom and the random party in Sawyer. There are things that happen outside of these venues that are shocking and disturbing, and their continuance proves that we have some culture problems that we need to confront. I just hope we all take the initiative and confront them together.