Decade of dismantling

In the world of higher education, few social issues are more pressing than sexual assault.

If the casual observer of the media were to make a judgement, few would fault them for believing that many college campuses exist underneath the shadow of rape culture.

At UVM, this culture is challenged. The 10th annual Dismantling Rape Culture Conference April 9, and the Cynic is proud to celebrate a decade of this conference.

The most important reason to attend this conference is knowledge — knowledge of  what exists here and all over the world that contributes to rape culture.

For us at the Cynic, understanding the media’s role in covering and perpetuating rape culture is vital. Too often does media coverage of sexual assault preserve the norms that maintain rape culture.

Many will remember the Rolling Stone article last December that profiled Jackie, the supposed victim of a gang rape at a fraternity at the University of Virginia.

The article is the recipient of numerous awards, including “The Worst Journalism of 2014” by the Columbia Journalism Review and “Error of the Year” by the Poynter Institute.

After serious re-reporting by other journalists, it was found that the article was full of lapses in sound, sensible journalism.

These errors led to embarrassing and confusing discourse surrounding the issue of sexual violence on UVA’s campus and around the country.

Among the other serious lapses in journalistic practices, the author failed to contact the fraternity brothers accused of committing the assault.

Erik Wemple, a media columnist for the Washington Post, criticized the author of the Rolling Stone piece, saying that she should have taken “every possible step to reach out and interview them, including emails, phone calls, certified letters, FedEx letters, UPS letters and, if all of that fails, a knock on the door.

No effort short of all that qualifies as journalism.”

The article and its fallout by many accounts forced a step backwards in the struggle to end sexual violence.

As students of journalism, it’s our responsibility to learn from these mistakes. And as human beings, we all have a responsibility to learn about the forces at work that perpetuate heinous injustices.

The Dismantling Rape Culture Conference allows for this learning in a safe environment. Registration for the event is still open, and over 200 people have already signed up.

Join us in celebrating the conference’s 10 year anniversary.