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Universities must place students before reputation

Committing rape is deplorable, but perpetuating the act — even if indirectly — is just as unforgivable. Some college administrations across the country are guilty of covering up sexual harassment cases among their student bodies, because they believe public knowledge of the acts would damage their reputations.

Boston University has become known for its problems with rape, due to multiple instances in which the university only responded to reports of sexual assault once they became public. In 2010, a suicide at the University of Notre Dame led the civil rights office of the Department of Education to launch an investigation of the student’s rape without waiting for a formal complaint — the first in at least 30 years, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

These reactionary measures and late responses to sexual assaults on campuses fail to help anyone. According to the nonprofit organization Security on Campus, there has been no significant change in the percentage of women sexually assaulted in college (20–25) over at least 30 years. Today, 62 percent of college students surveyed by the American Association of University Women say that they have been sexually harassed.

The parallels to the Sandusky scandal are glaringly obvious. In all these instances of sexual assault and harassment in a collegiate setting, there is a common thread: The reputation of the university is the first priority.

In the end, the truth regarding campus sexual assaults gets out more often than not — and a university that covers up its scandals looks infinitely worse than one that responds to them quickly.

The entire purpose of the university is to be a community site that encourages free thought and growth; the reputation-first mentality of many universities only serves to undermine this purpose.