Last week, the Associated Press reported that Chris Perkins, who conducted social research for the University of Iowa, “warned the university … a year ago that its public standing was suffering from an image as a heavy-drinking school in which sexual assault was too common, according to a report obtained by the Associated Press that school officials have withheld from the public.”
The warning carries significance, as college campuses have been considered by some to be the notorious prowling ground of sexual predators, sometimes disguised as otherwise innocent nightlife aficionados, other times literally scrawling their intentions across banners.
Take for example the now infamous Old Dominion University of Virginia’s fraternity chapter Sigma Nu and its predatorily suggestive banners that were hung during the university’s welcome week in August 2015. The white banners read “Rowdy and fun, hope your baby girl is ready for a good time,” “Freshman Daughter Drop Off,” and “Go ahead and Drop Off Mom Too.”
The problem persists on the UI campus. On Monday, two potential sexual assaults were anonymously reported. “According to the alert, police received a report of a sexual assault that occurred on the night of Feb. 6 in an East Side residence hall. Police also received a report of a separate incident on Sunday in a West Side residence hall,” the DI reported.
That is not to say that universities are not working to combat the unsettling, yet prevalent, rape culture. The Sigma Nu chapter was academically disciplined by Old Dominion, and in the last few years, the UI has implemented a relatively impressive anti-sexual-assault model. According to the Justice Department, this model has been imitated by other universities across the nation.
But given the nature of Perkins’ formal warning to the university, and the university’s reputation as a top “party school,” a university setting in which rape culture tends to thrive, UI officials could do more. Though, it seems the administration does not want to, as it may hurt admissions in the coming years.
The UI has said that releasing the Perkins warning would help rival schools and “serve no public purpose,” according to AP. But when one takes into account the way in which the bid for this research was awarded, the whole process reeks of political nepotism and secrecy. With the paid amount falling just a mere $100 below the amount legally requiring competitive bidding ($25,000), the firm led by Iowa Republican Matt Strawn has been the beneficiary of UI dime for numerous other projects as well, totaling around $320,000, according to AP.
If officials are confident in spending that much money on the research, they should be confident in the information. Even more so, it is lost to the Daily Iowan Editorial Board exactly how releasing information that could potentially be used to combat a problematic culture perpetuating a history of predation and manipulation serves “no public purpose.”
The UI administration has a moral duty to operate transparently and to operate in a means that minimizes sexual assault and works to exterminate rape culture. If not, the university undoubtedly works to further alienate and jeopardize the safety of each individual student on campus.