The post the other day on the UAF First Amendment case has garnered a number of thoughtful comments. I changed my initial assessment of the case when the faculty advisor of the newspaper wrote to say that the student who had been named in the piece not only gave permission to use her name, she insisted it be used.
There were 16 comments up earlier today and I've just added a couple of long responses.
But I'm still disturbed by the lack of understanding of the epidemic of violence against women in Alaska and the dismissal of women who might be harmed by the newspaper's piece as 'thin-skinned.' We don't call vets with PTSD who freak out at the sound of a loud noise 'thin-skinned.' And women who have suffered long term sexual abuse shouldn't be considered 'thin-skinned' if the kind of explicit sexual naming and shaming that was published in the student paper seriously disturbs them.
I'm also disturbed by how our adversarial system pushes this into a win/lose debate. In order for either side to win, it seems they must demean and diminish the other side. The University should vigorously defend the First Amendment, but they should also, just as vigorously reach out to support those who are harmed by people's exercise of free speech. In this case, the women likely to be hurt are people who have been traumatized in their lives by sexual harassment. They've come to campus to escape that and find themselves trivialized and demeaned once again, this time not by a drunk abuser in a back room, but by the very university they thought would offer them a safe place to study.
I wasn't on the Fairbanks campus while this was happening last year so I don't know for sure what the Chancellor and other university officials did to reach out to students who were hurt by all this. The faculty member who filed the complaint emailed me and said that her department and a few others had many students come to them, but she was not aware of any official actions of the higher level officials to reach out to vulnerable students.
But the stats from the CNN report cited in that first report tell us what anyone paying attention at all for the last 20 years should have known: this problem is huge - about one in three Alaskan women have been raped or sexually assaulted according to one study. Men, do your girlfriends, wives, daughters, or mothers have to be one of those statistics before you to do something to help end this epidemic of violence against women?