The University of Tulsa is in a unique position to lead the nation in sexual violence prevention efforts. Recent media events have drawn a great deal of attention to the alarmingly high rates of sexual violence on university campuses and send a clear message that there is a need for comprehensive programmatic efforts to address this issue.
In response, many universities are clamoring to make up for lost time. Fortunately, thanks to students, faculty and staff who volunteer their time to address this problem, TU is already making efforts comparable to larger and better-staffed institutions. As such TU has the opportunity to lead the way nationally in campus violence prevention by becoming a trauma-informed community, with training, education and initiatives for and from everyone from trustees to students.
We need a place on campus where survivors of violence can go to get resources, learn about legal options and receive early intervention services to stem the long-term negative consequences of violence. If TU is truly committed to protecting their students from sexual violence, they will install full-time individuals housed at a centralized location dedicated solely to addressing this issue. This centralized location would not only allow for much-needed resources to be disseminated to the campus and send a clear message that sexual violence is not tolerated and survivors are supported, but also serve as a workplace dedicated to comprehensive prevention efforts—all of which are needed to combat sexual violence on this campus.
TU should also find new ways to combat harassment and discrimination.
Multiple news outlets have declared transgender rights as the next civil rights movement. Unfortunately, TU is behind in more ways than one in their efforts to provide gender equality for all students. While policies protecting these individuals may be in place, their practice is questionable. Recent research has demonstrated almost 70 percent of gender non-conforming/gender queer individuals may experience physical and/or verbal discrimination and harassment in restrooms. The consequences for the individuals are often severe, whether it is excessive absences from school or the workplace, or various physical complications (i.e. kidney and urinary tract infections) due to their efforts to avoid the bathroom. The implications of this research demand a reconsideration of gender segregation on campus.
If TU is a school truly committed to ending violence, harassment and discrimination, their policy must be put into practice. One of the most basics steps we can take in this direction would be offering desegregated bathrooms on campus, providing a safe space for cisgender and transgender individuals alike. Ultimately we need to provide all members of the LGBT community equal access to basic dignity and fair treatment, which includes using a restroom in which they feel most comfortable. In order to accomplish this we need to begin changing the physical structures on our campus which provide reinforcement for gender binarism and structure for discrimination.