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Gatepost Editorial: Out of sight, on our minds

The Gatepost Editorial Board

This past Monday, a female resident student reported being sexually assaulted the Friday before by another FSU student, a male acquaintance, on campus after leaving an off-campus party.

It might be shocking to some that a third sexual assault has been reported on our small campus in less than a month – the other two being reported by one female student on Sept. 28. In fact, when Gatepost reporters over the past few weeks asked students whether they feel safe on campus, almost unanimously they answered, “Yes.”

Students reported feeling safer because of the presence of Campus Police and the blue emergency posts. Some surely felt better able to protect themselves after participating in programs offered to students such as self-defense classes. And many didn’t give specifics, shrugged off the question and just said confidently that they felt that the FSU campus is a safe place.

Framingham State’s campus may be safe – but are its students?

National statistics suggest that for every reported incident, there are many more that go unreported. In fact, 60 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, according to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network’s website. This suggests that there’s something being sorely overlooked here.

One of those factors being overlooked, which is relevant in both of these reported attacks, is the culture of off-campus parties. While the FSU campus might seem relatively quiet and tame on any given night, especially when compared to other universities, it’s not because students aren’t partying – it’s because they’re going elsewhere to do it.

While the alcohol-free policy is meant to keep campus safe, respectful and ultimately a place for learning rather than a place for parties, students ends up drinking and partying in far more dangerous situations. These are generally at strangers’ or acquaintances’ houses where no one’s actions are being regulated except by other intoxicated people.

If there were 21-plus dorms where students of age were allowed to drink, RAs could be contacted should there be concern of danger. Students would also already be on campus and wouldn’t need to find transportation to and from other locations while drunk.

Another aspect being overlooked is that there is simply a serious lack of safe transportation for students who have been drinking. They are either driving or being driven drunk, walking along Route 9 or sleeping at a house full of people whom they probably don’t know very well. None of these options is safe – and in fact they are often life-threatening.

Of course, blame can’t be put on the school for not allowing students to throw ragers on campus. But we do need a system that addresses the reality of this off-campus, underground scene that is ultimately putting students in vulnerable positions.

We at The Gatepost think FSU desperately needs a system in which students can get help without the fear of being harshly punished for being drunk. Students as of now can contact RAs or Campus Police, but doing so would get themselves and their friends potentially suspended from school – something that very few students would ever actually do even if someone was in potential danger.

President F. Javier Cevallos has discussed the possibility of an amnesty policy for students in this situation to protect them from punishment and to encourage students to get help and keep each other safe. We at The Gatepost think this policy is absolutely necessary and should be put in place as soon as possible. Student safety depends on it.

We at The Gatepost also think FSU needs a no-questions-asked transportation service for students to have safe transport back to school from off-campus locations.

Administration should be researching and planning for a system that would function like a shuttle or free taxi for students, but which wouldn’t require Campus Police or Residence Life to get involved. This might be a student-run service where students call and give an address, and their peers would pick them up and drive them back to campus dorms in a regulated but questions-free system.

Students need this type of resource, because right now, they are facing potentially life-threatening dangers rather than using the resources available. If that doesn’t prove that the school need new systems in place, we don’t know what does.


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