By Jessica T
Don't fund the rape culture at my alma materUploaded: Nov 23, 2014
It was an eerie weekend. First, I received an email from my father. He said he'd been out to our garage and looked at our family's diplomas from the University of Virginia. His Master's, PhD, my mother's Masters, my sister and my Bachelor's degrees all had blood stains on them. I didn't catch what my dad meant until RollingStone Magazine (warning: this is a deeply disturbing story) came to our house a few hours later. In the afternoon, my college friends called. They had loyally returned to Charlottesville as they do each year to remember our friend who died from a drinking-related accident and to run a 5K in her honor.
The stories about UVA's rape culture, which has been nurtured and perpetuated by its Greek system and ignored by the administration, are horrific. What made reading the story even worse were my own memories that surfaced of my time at the school: A boyfriend turned drunk who broke his leg (not once, but twice) jumping off of the roof of a fraternity house. A threat I received in economics class from one of his friends, a former high school classmate of mine, after I broke up him, that I should never set foot in their fraternity house again or else. Serial rapist after serial rapist on the loose, and the lingering fears that never went away. Getting harassed at parties and dorm rooms by violent, rich, and lewd "good ole boys."
I've always been outspoken, and I never participated in the Greek culture at UVA. In fact, I was adamantly opposed to it, but the social scene is such that it's unavoidable to not have a handful of experiences. I have acquaintances whose experiences were similar to those described in the story. Semesters were spent hiding in their closets after assaults. It took many semesters for their GPAs to recover from missed classes and assignments.
What's more maddening is this: I buried some of those memories and moved on. I hoped (and assumed) that as time had gone on perhaps the culture at UVA had improved with a more enlightened younger generation. Before graduate school, I worked in UVA's fundraising offices writing well-researched thank you notes from the President to the moneyed donors who kept the University's well-lubricated traditions alive. I loved that job and did it graciously - UVA paid my family's health insurance and had granted my husband a free ride to get his Masters of Fine Arts. And once I landed a tech job in the valley, we donated generously and loyally year after year to the Creative Writing program.
Until today, we encouraged my daughter to consider going to UVA like her parents and grandparents. We bought her T-shirts and liked the idea of her going back to a place where so many of our formative experiences took place. But today, we told her straight up that UVA wouldn't be a good school for her. I hope that parents across the country say this to their daughters.
While I do love the Creative Writing Program and was heartened to see a photo of one of our favorite professors at an anti-rape rally at UVA in the Wall Street Journal today, I cannot and will not give my alma mater a dime until drastic action is taken to ensure that changes are made to disrupt once and for all a sick culture that feeds on the degradation of women. I urge any and all Silicon Valley UVA alumni to withhold their generosity and follow suit.
My husband is a scholar of UVA history and said that Jefferson thought his great institution was going down the tubes at the end of his life. I'm told he cried during a graduation ceremony. He is surely crying now - as all of us should be.