I got on Twitter for the first time in probably a month, and suddenly a post caught my eye. I'll leave the details out, but essentially, a student who was sexually assaulted by a TAMU athlete not only learned her attacker would remain on his athletic team but also received a curt, cold and insensitive response from the university.
I was disgusted.
Then it got worse, and it is what I saw next is the reason I am writing this right now: this girl is far from alone in her negative experience with A&M.
In fact, as I scrolled through the comments, I saw more. I read of a girl who was sexually assaulted by another TAMU athlete, only to have the assault written off as "harassment" and told to simply try to avoid him. Another mentioned the person who sexually assaulted her was to return to campus this fall, and again was told to simply stay away.
Texas A&M might be a big school, but no school is too big to care. These were just two that I read that day, but two is too many in my opinion, not to mention those still not ready or able to come forward.
These posts I read represent instances where sexual assault victims, and students of Texas A&M, courageously came forward against their attackers only to be undermined, pushed aside, ignored, and silenced by the very people and very university that was supposed to protecting and listening to them.
As an Aggie, and a proud one at that, I am ashamed of my school. I am shocked, and I am heartbroken. I cannot imagine how it must feel to be told that the person who has made your life a waking nightmare will be sharing the classroom and the library with you once again.
I used to brag to friends at other colleges about how safe I felt on my campus, and how proud I was of a school who exercised their core values so tangibly.
It not only terrifies me that sexual assault is happening on my college campus, under my own nose. It terrifies me how comfortable my college campus appears to be with that fact.
It terrifies me that my college campus values athletics and academia over the well-being of its students.
Texas A&M, you have failed the fellow Aggies I mentioned above. Therefore, you have failed me, and you have failed every single student who steps foot on campus.
If you know me, you know I don't like to do stuff like this. I don't like to put myself out there, to step on toes and make statements. But this grabbed me.
Because this is not about just one Twitter post or one whispered rumor or one instance or one student. I am writing this because one or two stories forces me to dreadfully consider the fact that there may be more.
This is not something you can sweep under the rug.
Another hotel or more engineering degrees is not going to fix this. Because this is not just happening not only in dorm rooms and libraries and classrooms and apartments. It is happening in boardrooms and coach's offices where decisions are being made, and students are being hurt. And when this is bigger than just students harming students, when a university is harming students too, then you have a crack forming in your foundation, getting bigger and bigger every single day that you let assaulters off the hook.
I can't help but think of Step in and Stand Up. For those who may not know, this is a campaign founded by A&M in 2015 to create open conversation and provide recourses and training to prevent sexual assault on campus. This year, in particular, the movement gained a lot of momentum, with countless events and, ironically, even the athletics department participating. And all of these things are wonderful.
According to a survey by the Association of American Universities done in 2015, 15% of females at Texas A&M reported being sexually assaulted. And although this number is lower than the study's 20% national average, that number does not take into account unreported cases, and it does not take into account what happens after these cases are reported, which in my opinion, is almost as important.
But Ags, we can do better.
And so can our administration. The ones who are supposed to be leading and guiding this university are letting off the assaulters, and it needs to stop. I am calling out the people of Texas A&M who have been pretending we do not have a problem because you are catalyzing the problem. I am asking, pleading for a school who has for too long been focused on money and trophies to truly prioritize its students to take sexual assault seriously, and specifically, to take sexual assaulters seriously.
Yes, I realize these cases that have most recently come to light may very well be isolated, and I honestly hope that is the case. Some might say these words come across a little extreme or harsh, but it's because I believe there is still time to change. The damage has already been done, but I don't want to give up hope on my university yet, because I still love this place, and I still believe there is something special about the Aggie spirit.
One of our core values is integrity. I want to believe my university still has that. Texas A&M, it is time to step in and stand up.