Recent anonymous opinion piece offensive, makes baseless claims

October 30, 2015

A recent anonymous opinion piece in The Brandeis Hoot broadly claimed that CAs are raping students and that DCL is empowering them to break into your room to assist in their further victimization of residents, all under the shocking headline of “DCL wishes further harm upon students.” While I have no knowledge of the statistics around sexual assault perpetrated by CAs, I can speak to the gross generalizations and demonization of an office and a group of students who work tirelessly for the student body. Though I generally agree with the action prescribed by the article, I think that the author and The Hoot should reevaluate their aims in publishing this piece and consider the consequences of inflammatory words on the support structures that CAs and DCL work meticulously to craft.

I am sure that DCL has asked its CAs not to publicly comment on this issue, but thankfully as a former CA of two years, I feel empowered to say what is necessary to defend my colleagues from an ignorant and hateful work of vitriol. This article does a great disservice to one of the hardest working contingents of our student population. CAs work endlessly to support their residents; the role is emotionally demanding and physically draining. Many (like myself) choose not to return because of the amount of time, energy and thought that we put into the job. The department’s policies are always aimed to benefit the welfare and safety of students, even when the reasoning behind their decisions is opaque.

Claiming that DCL “hires and trains rapists” is irresponsible at best and is blatantly offensive at worst. The CA role is primarily one of emotional support: We help residents through depression, anxiety, academic and familial crises, and serve as a point of contact to assist students in navigating the messy experience that is college. Painting CAs as rapists in an article published by a campus newspaper recklessly harms students’ willingness to reach out to their CA for support, guidance and even, yes, to report a sexual assault (they are trained as mandated reporters). This article tangibly harms the ability of students to feel comfortable going to their CA for help and advice.

This author’s words and their format are incredibly damaging to the efficacy of CAs as support structures for students, and to generalize the actions of a minuscule minority upon the hundreds of good people who have served this university in this role during the time period mentioned is abhorrent.

Moreover, the article seems to rely on its claim that CAs are rapists to give sole justification to why they shouldn’t have access to master keys. This appeals to the common false narrative about sexual assault: that it occurs in dark alleys and house invasions. The reality of sexual assault on college campuses generally does not fit this account; the overwhelming majority of survivors knew their assailant. Relying on inappropriate generalizations and false narratives is a poor way to go about a serious discussion of a large and significant university policy.

Though the action that the article suggests is reasonable, it preys on irrational fear and disgusting generalizations to reach its conclusion. Let’s examine the correct line of logic.

I believe that no student should be given the power to enter into others’ spaces without permission, as it creates a dynamic where some students have powers with tangible authority over others. In the old status quo, the power of the CA is one of reporting; their authority stems directly from the people they report to. At the end of the day, keys and locks serve the dual functions of physical and emotional security. Even if the existence of a student master key is implemented in a way that does not change the physical security of the student (as the article suggests it could), emotional security is an equally important function of a door and a lock. The existence of master keys in the hands of students makes many others uncomfortable (both CAs and residents) and impacts the emotional security that our rooms are supposed to provide.

Moreover, giving any students the ability to enter into another’s room elevates some students (CAs) above others (their residents), and transforms the role of the CA from a community builder into that of a police officer. CAs should be information-gathering and -disseminating figures. They should report what they see, share what they know. Further direct power is unwise—it is typically imprudent to empower anyone with the tools we typically leave in the hands of trained police.

Finally, if the author sat down to talk about these issues with Dr. Touchette, I imagine they might have gotten somewhere. Though Tim is demonized throughout the piece, I have worked with him extensively on issues that we differ on, and even in disagreement, I have found that DCL and its director are solely here to support and assist students, and are flexible to change. As I understand it, the decision to give CAs master keys was intended to help students by reducing the time they spend locked out. Even if you might not agree with the department’s decisions (I don’t always), they make them for the benefit of students, and are always looking for ways to improve residential student experience. Claiming that they “wish further harm upon students” is baseless and easy to say from the safety of anonymity.

However, the ultimate problem with this article rests on the people who chose to publish it. Anonymous opinion pieces are easy to submit with unfounded allegations and reckless implications, which is why a newspaper should be particularly careful to publish anonymous libel as opinion. Thoughtlessly damaging the perceived integrity of the strongest support structures in our dorms rests solely on The Hoot’s irresponsible decision to publish this irresponsible work. When an anonymous opinion piece is submitted to a paper, it is the role of the editorial board to evaluate the opinion for unintended ramifications, factual accuracy and basic principles of reason. The Hoot should reconsider the standards (if any) that govern its publishing.

Grady Ward was Community Advisor from 2013 to 2015

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