Editorial: Valentine’s Day should make us consider existing sexual assault culture at CWRU

Editorial Board

With Valentine’s Day coming up, it’s important to acknowledge the pressure surrounding the holiday, especially when it comes to sex. Let’s start off with this reminder that you have agency over your own consent and can give it or take it away at any point—whether you are in a committed long-term relationship or a casual situation. However, while the concept of consent is something that almost everyone knows, Case Western Reserve University still has a huge number of sexual assault cases on campus, with various social groups having a widespread culture of sexual assault, especially fraternities. Rape culture is still incredibly prominent on CWRU’s campus, and it’s best that we not forget that.  

Shortly after the pandemic started in 2020, students shone a light on the horrific experiences that people within our community have faced—more specifically, through an Instagram account called @cwru.survivors. While the account is not active anymore, all of the posts are still on the page in a seemingly never-ending scroll. This account and the students who spoke publicly about their experiences with sexual misconduct and assault sparked outrage and a call for change and accountability.

There were multiple responses to the public pressure for action, both from student groups and the university itself. CWRU’s response included a task force, called “For a Better CWRU.” While the task force was performative, it showed CWRU taking initiative. However, at the end of the 2021-2022 academic year, the task force was transitioned into an advisory group, never to be heard of again, despite never leading the overwhelming structural changes required to fix our campus culture and administration. Furthermore, while the task force gave updates in April 2022, they were incredibly vague, and again, they were never publicly followed up on by the Office of Equity. It is likely that President Eric Kaler will not publicly acknowledge the changes needed for CWRU’s administration regarding sexual misconduct, even though CWRU’s Title IX  office is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice. While reforms to the Title IX office may be ongoing in response, there has been very little transparency with students as to what’s changing as of yet.

On the student side of action, there was also much response to the outrage. On the more positive side, students founded a #MeToo CWRU organization, one “dedicated to reforming rape culture in our community.” Additionally, there is a new @survivorsatcwru page—although, the last post on the page is from November 2022; clearly, it does not have the same magnitude as the initial Instagram.

Moreover, due to many of the posts on the @cwru.survivor page involving Greek Life, fraternities put out their own statements about their goals for internal reform. While some fraternities posted statements regarding allegations, some of those posts have since been deleted. Furthermore, while others kept up their post and even posted resources in 2021, they have not posted about the topic since. The thing about rape culture is that it does not disappear with some initial “reforms” in a couple of months. As fraternities add new members, they must continue to prioritize educating and advocating for changes to the historic culture of sexual misconduct. In addition, it’s also important that fraternities continuously post resources and take action. While changes may have happened even without posting about it on social media, trust must be earned. The population that is affected by fraternity rape culture cannot know if these organizations are making the change within if they are publicly silent about it. 

Fraternities are only one example of how important it is to be vocal about rape culture on campus; this is an ongoing struggle that requires all student organizations to come to terms with their behavior. The @cwru.survivors account was created in the summer of 2020, and the class of 2023 is the last class on campus that was present and involved with that movement. It likely won’t be long until we are forced to confront the worst aspects of college culture once again, but our outrage must not just be momentary. So, as Valentine’s Day approaches, we must keep in mind the importance of consent, but also of being continuously vocal and vigilant about sexual assault within the CWRU community.