On Tuesday, September 1, Residence Life, Greek Life Commons, Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council, Student Health Center, Athletics, and Human Resources sponsored the screening of the new documentary film, The Hunting Ground, to a packed audience at the Experimental Media and Performance Arts Center. This movie focuses on the rampant cases of sexual violence on college campuses, and the lack of response or support from colleges due to factors such as student recruitment, alumni funds, and athletic pride. The film also emphasized what the lack of response leads to: repeated rapes and the ability of members of that community to continually get away with it, with examples of fraternity and sports culture allowing this to occur.
The film explores this hopeless pursuit with the story of two victims from the University of North Carolina who began an activist campaign to find and record poorly handled rape cases across college campuses as well as to support the victims. The main method of activism they are pushing is Title IX, a portion of the United States Education Amendments of 1972 which prevents discrimination based on gender in institutions of education, with the penalty of losing federal funding if not followed. Because sexual violence is a form of sexual harassment, and sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination according to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, colleges are to be held accountable for mishandling of sexual violence cases on their campuses.
Overall, I think the film was informative, giving clear and specific examples of cases where colleges failed to see to the needs of their students and denied them the support, justice, and respect that is necessary for helping a victim of any crime, and especially one of sexual violence.
My only criticism comes from a Slate article which refutes the story of one of the victims shown, since there seems to be a lot of inconsistencies in her story, including illicit drug use and other untold factors like a failed DNA test of a condom at the scene. However, this should not detract from the multitude of other stories in the movie.
A panel discussion followed the film. It was led by Vice President of Student Life Dr. Frank Ross, Director of Employee Relations and Diversity Larry Hardy, and other faculty. The discussion panel was meant to clarify and explain anything about sexual violence or reporting it at RPI that students may not understand. One question came from a student inquiring about President Shirley Ann Jackson’s absence from this important event. Another student mentioned her previous roommate’s experience regarding her rape and the unhelpful support process behind it, leading her to drop out of school.
As a whole, the panel was good at providing information to the large audience in regards to sexual violence, and I would recommend the film to those who want more information on this behavior by colleges across the nation.