Posts Tagged ‘Lori Berquam’

What to make of these sexual assault reports

March 2, 2010

I meant to post on this yesterday in conjunction with the story run by the Herald (which should have been featured more prominently online), but I am currently without a laptop. There is so much to cover here, but I think 4 specific things deserve mention.

1. As Jack mentioned yesterday, the report cited included some disquieting statistics on the disparity between occurrences of actual rape, and actual reports filed. These stats are outrageous, and the barriers faced by victims which can be controlled need to be addressed.

The estimated number of rapes outnumbers reports of sexual assaults on UW System campuses and at the flagship UW-Madison by a margin of 17-1. With reporting levels so low, nearly all rapists go unpunished, whether by schools or the criminal justice system.

2. Sexual Assault is a much bigger problem than almost everyone thinks. In fact, based on these numbers, it is probably the single greatest threat to a womans safety while on campus.

How many rapes or attempted rapes are occurring on Wisconsin campuses?

National surveys of college women are the most accurate way to estimate campus rape, researchers say. An oft-cited federal National Institute of Justice study in 2000 estimated 35 rapes per 1,000 students each academic year.

At a school the size of UW-Madison, with about 21,600 women in 2008, national statistics suggest there could be 750 rapes or attempted rapes a year.

3. Victims of sexual assault are no more dishonest than any other victim. Fact.

Research suggests rapes are no more likely to be falsely reported than any other crime. Yet advocates say a cultural double standard creates a powerful barrier to reporting.

4. Lori Berquam: You f*cked up!

In her response to the article release by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Lori Berquam neither mentions, nor acknowledges any of these obvious points. No promises of reform, or emphasis on recent changes, or even an acknowledgement of just how much of a problem this is (she calls sexual assault a “public health concern”), just a pat on the back and an exercise in self-preservation of her bureaucracy.

Kudos to the Herald for running the article, even if it wasn’t crafted by their writers.

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Campus sexual assault story about to break?

February 25, 2010

From a statement just released by Dean of Students Lori Berquam:

Members of the UW-Madison community,

In coming days, there will be a great deal of media and online coverage of sexual assault in our community and around the UW System.

Reading these stories reminds us of the importance of the work we are doing to try to prevent these horrible acts, to respond in victim-centered ways and to seek accountability from those who would perpetrate them.

Is there a big campus sexual assault story that is about to break? It would only make sense that a statement like this would be released in the midst of an accompanying scandal.

Why the Herald should change its comment policy

February 10, 2010

I wouldn’t dare be the first to cast a stone at the Badger Herald. Luckily, Dean of Students Lauri Berquam’s letter to the editor today gave me a much-welcomed opportunity to pile on my former employer for allowing its comments section to be over-run by hate-mongers, buffoons and frat brothers.

The Herald has always prided itself as a promoter of free speech. At least partly because it started out as a neo-fascist conservative paper on a liberal campus, the Herald has an appreciation for all opinions, no matter how ridiculous or outside of the mainstream. At least that’s the narrative the current team likes to promote. Remember, the Herald, like the Cardinal, is a college paper and is therefore never run by the same people for more than a year or two. It’s very hard to maintain “traditions,” for more than a few years. But I digress.

When I was content editor of the editorial page we pretty much let anything fly. There may have been a few really nasty comments that I didn’t approve, but the general idea was that all comments had value, no matter how absurd or off-topic they were. That is currently the policy I have for this blog. I have never deleted a comment except in a couple rare instances in which people asked me to delete their own comments.

But I think the Herald should re-think its policy. Just as the paper shouldn’t accept bad writers, it shouldn’t accept bad commenters. Bad commenters actually prevent real dialogue. The comment section so frequently degenerates into personal attacks and nonsense that it makes writing a meaningful criticism of an article seem pathetically beside the point. The AEPi article comment section was not only full of absurd ad hominem attacks from both sides, it was flooded with comments from the same two or three IP addresses! This happens all the time on articles about a campus group –– group members manipulate the comment policy to make it appear as if they have boat-loads of support.

The opinion page and the comment section should be oriented towards people who are actually interested in reading the points the writers make and responding to them. Anonymous comments, just like anonymous sources, can be a great asset to newspapers. Our generation has recognized this and it will take a while for the mainstream media to catch up. However, this does not preclude editors from using common-sense discretion, just as they do with letters to the editor and other published work.

If I were in charge, I would put a couple comment czars in charge of moderating the comments. Maybe some copy editors or other people who have less of an interest in suppressing criticism of an article. The policy would be extremely liberal –– any comment that displays a sincere interest in communicating a relevant point would be approved. No worries about grammar, style etc. Commenters would be allowed to criticize writers and the paper, and they would be allowed to challenge the motives and intellectual honesty of the writer. But any far-fetched allegations would have to be verified.

There’s my two cents.

The importance of a campus memorial

February 3, 2010

As Jack eloquently alluded to in the Brunch Links today, yesterday saw the loss of UW-student Neha Suri to bacterial meningitis. Like Jack, I also did not know her, but I imagine a few of our readers did based on her major and work at the DC among other things.

A memorial for Neha organized by the University was held earlier today. At the end of the memorial, it was reported (though I can’t find a written source right now) that rather than a moment of silence or prayer, Neha’s family requested that Dean of Students Lori Berquam lead attendees in a rendition of “Varsity.”

It has always been a theory of mine that the reason I can not find a UW alum who rates their years in Madison as anything less than exceptional is because of the expansiveness of our campus’s community, which allows for an experience in which there is something for everyone. However, this expansiveness also has the potential to lead to a feeling of isolation and a lack of community amongst students.

That is why, in addition to remembering the departed, memorials organized by campus officials, with members of the administration in attendance, and which garner coverage from campus papers, are important in solidifying and reinforcing a necessary sense of community so easily lost on such a vast campus.

We are not a private college where everyone often knows everyone; and thank God for that. But, at certain times it is important that we act like one.

May she rest in peace.

New code of conduct for UW

September 3, 2009

Watch out troublemakers. Not only for my column in tomorrow’s Herald, which will instruct you on how to legally make trouble in the dorms (only good, safe trouble), but for the new code of conduct approved by the University of Wisconsin System board of regents.

Under the revised code, off-campus student misconduct does not need to be criminal to be punishable by the university. UW-Madison also gained the authority to sanction students in a manner independent of any ongoing criminal investigations.

Berquam said the precise meaning of the controversial “substantial university interest” standard had not been settled, even though the change is already in effect.

At least Berquam is being honest. Nevertheless, this is a sad day for student rights. Campus officials seem incredulous that students would demand strict standards for a discipline policy, such as rules governing what students can be punished for and how. They expect students to simply trust them.

The university is a governing institution. It should be expected to act like one. It oversees over 40,000 students as well as thousands of faculty and staff members. The good will of a motherly dean does not suffice when it comes to dolling out sanctions that could be as serious as suspension or expulsion.

However, what is equally important is the prospects of double-jeopardy posed to many students who get in trouble with the city, mainly because of underage drinking. Once kids are out of the dorms they should be free of that overbearing fear of having their educational future threatened because they get caught with a beer.