Military Sexual Assault: In DC and at UNC

BY: LINDSEY KELLOGG

The issue of sexual assault in the military became prominent in the news earlier this year with the release of a Pentagon survey that estimated that 26,000 people serving in the armed forces were sexually assaulted in 2012, up from 19,000 two years before. According to the same survey, only 13 percent of the estimated cases were reported. Of the politicians who hastened to address this issue, North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan (D) was one of the most adamant and forceful voices in speaking out against military sexual assault and the systems in place to address it.

“Our servicemen and women should not have to worry about their personal safety on bases in the U.S. and around the world while they are bravely serving to protect our nation’s safety,” Hagan said in a statement the week the Pentagon survey was released in early May.  Hagan, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, soon went with other like-minded politicians to discuss ways to prevent military sexual assault with President Obama in a White House meeting on May 9.

Some steps towards reform were soon taken, such as the creation of congressional investigations and of the Department of Defense’s Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel, a nine-person committee dedicated to investigating the judicial systems used in prosecuting reported cases of sexual assault. Military courts used for such prosecutions have been criticized as victim-blaming, lacking transparency, and too ingrained in the units they are supposed to be judging to be impartial.

However, reforms to prevent future military sexual assaults and revamp the military justice system have stalled. Bipartisan bills signed onto by Hagan, such as the Combatting Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013, have become stuck in the congressional morass. Since the government shutdown in early October, Hagan and other members of Congress who were actively supporting military sexual assault reforms have moved their political focus elsewhere and haven’t recently spoken publicly on the issue.

Cases of sexual assault in the armed forces still continue to come to light, and now receive more news attention than ever. Over the summer, a case of alleged rape by three midshipmen of a female midshipman at the United States Naval Academy (USNA) brought together the issues of sexual assault in the military and sexual assault on college campuses. The female midshipman reported that she was raped by her fellow midshipmen while unconsciously drunk at an off-campus party in 2012, a situation that seems familiar to students constantly warned to about the dangers of alcohol and sexual violence if they choose to party during their college years.

While political reform of military sexual assault issues stagnates in DC, a new generation of officers graduating from ROTC programs may have a positive effect on changing military sexual assault culture.

Students at Carolina who are in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), the college military program whose graduates become commissioned officers, are educated about sexual assault prevention and assistance from the moment they arrive at college, according to Lieutenant Colonel Megan B. Stallings, a professor of military science in the Army ROTC program. The Army’s Sexual Assault/Harassment Response and Prevention (SHARP) program “teaches sexual harassment and assault scenarios all four years the students/cadets are enrolled,” Stallings said, noting the program’s focus on prevention and discussion. “They get training involving both scenarios from college life and military scenarios,” she added. Air Force and Navy ROTC do not use SHARP but have similar educational programs.

Stallings emphasized how important sexual assault prevention training is to the Army overall, and how important it is for students in the ROTC program, as they will soon be officers in charge of approximately forty enlisted soldiers. SHARP training covers how to deal with and report sexual assault suspected among troops, as well as aiding victims. “A large part of the SHARP program is not just preventing sexual assault but taking care of the victims of the crimes, whether they be in or outside of the ROTC system,” Stallings said. SHARP exists in all college Army ROTC programs.

Despite all of the good done by ROTC programs to educate their students, some women still feel apprehensive about joining the military due to the sexual assault issue. “I was worried at first when joining ROTC because I saw the Invisible War documentary which is really bad press for the military when it comes to how they treat sexual assault,” said a female UNC junior in the Air Force ROTC program, referring to a 2012 documentary exploring the prevalence of sexual assault among the armed forces. “I don’t know for sure how they treated sexual assault before I joined [Air Force] ROTC a year ago, but we have lectures on it all the time.”

 “By the third year, we have two in depth classes with various scenarios on the topic and we talk about our resources if it should happen and the consequences of these actions,” she said. “On top of the lessons we have in class, we have briefings throughout the year and lectures by guest speakers skilled in sexual assault prevention. Trust me, they really beat it into us before we even enter the active duty.” The junior, like Stallings, also emphasized how important it is for future officers who will be leading enlisted members to be knowledgeable and in control when it comes to suspected sexual assaults.

No ROTC students have been involved with any alleged sexual crimes in Carolina’s recent history, and, as Stallings mentioned, may be among the most qualified to help victims of such crimes. Stallings underscored how students in the ROTC system aren’t officially part of the military yet, and so if they were to commit crimes or transgressions, such things would be dealt with through the university and the civilian justice systems.

As capable students graduate from ROTC with full sexual assault prevention training and officially enter the military as officers, the military programs’ goals of changing military culture regarding sexual assault might just come to fruition.

  This article originally featured in Campus BluePrint’s Winter 2013 issue.  For more content check out Campus BluePrint in print, available on campus and online!

We read it so you didn’t have to: Pope Institute’s report on UNC discourages learning

GUEST POST BY: CORINNE WHITE

According to a new report criticizing UNC-Chapel Hill’s curriculum, many course offerings are too “idiosyncratic,” and the general education curriculum follows an “all-too-typical ‘smorgasbord’ approach.”

The John W. Pope Center for Higher Education, a Raleigh-based think tank affiliated with Governor Pat McCrory’s budget director and high-profile Tea Party supporter Art Pope, published a report written by Jay Schalin and Jenna Ashley Robinson that analyzed UNC’s overall course offerings and curriculum, found flaws, and prescribed alternatives.

The report lists many classes that fulfill general education requirements and are considered by the Pope Center to be overly specific, existing only to serve the personal research interests of faculty. The classes listed include a first-year seminar on defining blackness, a class on Israeli cinema, and one on American environmental policy.

Schalin and Robinson also advocate eliminating courses that require prerequisites, cutting classes that are limited to a specific time period or place, and perhaps most troubling, shortening the foreign language requirement from three classes to two. Their proposal would also cut UNC’s overall course offering from nearly 4,000 options to just 771.

Overall, the Pope Center’s recommendations disturbingly ignore the pressing need of a modern university to prepare students to obtain a nuanced, empathetic and analytic understanding of an increasingly globalized economy.

The report included quotes that border on xenophobia, and emphasize the Pope Center’s mission of promoting the study of western civilization, including: “If we are to have a unified nation that pulls together when needed, one culture must dominate.”

Another concerning excerpt: “Not all history is equally valuable—the study of Western civilization is richer and more pertinent to U.S. students than other branches. Like it or not, we are part of the West and draw almost all of our culture from it. Furthermore, Western civilization, far more than any other branch of history, includes the vast range of ideas that influenced human events.”

Like it or not, we draw our culture from our people, who come from many places that do not make up the traditional “West.”

The Pope Center’s recommendations completely misunderstand the point of a general education curriculum by belittling enriching — albeit specific — courses as being irrelevant to gaining general knowledge. By studying microcosms of history and society such as JAPN 351: Swords, Tea Bowls, and Woodblock Prints: Exploring Japanese Material Culture or RELI 232: Shrines and Pilgrimages (both classes identified to be unnecessary by the Pope Center), students are able to learn specific applications of general, important concepts and by thinking more globally, are able to apply and recognize such concepts in their own lives.

 

Guest contributor  Corinne White is a senior history and public policy major from Winston-Salem, who has worked at Obama For America and Amnesty International. Corinne is currently a staff writer for Synapse Magazine, a new iPad magazine launching November 12, 2013.   You can follow Synapse on Twitter @synapseunc

Campus BluePrint accepts submissions on topics regarding UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina politics. To learn more e-mail Grace Tatter at gracet086@gmail.com. 

I Stand with Landen Gambill

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COMMENTARY BY: CAREY HANLIN

Three days ago, my good friend Landen Gambill received an email from the UNC-Chapel Hill Honor Court informing her that she had been charged

Students on President Obama’s Loan Policy Address at UNC-Chapel Hill and President Obama’s Full Speech (VIDEO)

While waiting in line to hear President Barack Obama speak at UNC-Chapel Hill, students discuss how the upcoming hike in federal student loan interest rates will affect them, what they hope President Obama will cover in his speech, what action they hope Congress will be taking on this issue, and what the importance of higher education is to them. For many, if their federal student loan interest rates were doubled, they would no longer be able to afford pursuing a graduate education. Overwhelmingly, the message was clear that students believe that affordability in higher education needs to be a priority.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rj7TKnoXycU]
#Don’tDoubleMyRate

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/41149005 w=400&h=300]

Obama’s Loan Policy Address (UNC-Chapel Hill) from Audrey Ann Lavallee on Vimeo.

Student Interviews Filming and Overall Footage Editing: Audrey Ann Lavallee-Belanger, Campus BluePrint Multimedia and Blog Editor

Student Interviewing: Chelsea Phipps, former Campus BluePrint Editor-in-Chief

President Obama’s Speech Filming: Oliver Rose, Campus BluePrint Videographer


Development in Chapel Hill Needs To Be Reimagined

BY: ZAINA ALSOUS, op-ed columnist

When we think about development downtown, we tend to leave some out of the conversation.

Developers in Chapel Hill recognize we students as a profitable market, and with the unanimous vote of the Chapel Hill Town Council to approve of Shortbread Lofts — a 7-story apartment complex to be located on West Rosemary Street — future Carolina students will have more options for short-term residence.

However, the Chapel Hill community is not, and has never been, limited to students. There are residents who have called Chapel Hill home for years, and who will continue to call Chapel Hill home long after students move out. Residents living in the Northside Neighborhood, located directly adjacent to the newly approved complex, are integral to the very fabric and history of Chapel Hill; yet they are consistently left out of the conversation around development in downtown. Convenience for future student tenants and profitability for investors should not be privileged above other significant long-term ramifications for Chapel Hill residents.

Problems with development in the parameters of downtown Chapel Hill do not stop at Greenbridge, a huge residential development recently constructed at the end of West Franklin Street. Greenbridge developers overlooked longtime community resident concerns, and Shortbread developers have followed suit by failing to make a serious effort to sit down with Northside residents and hear their thoughts, and incorporate their voices in the development process.

Shortbread could possibly decrease the demand on student housing rentals within the Northside, which would be a boon to its non-student residents. However, with a significant cost difference and varying preferences of students choosing between home and apartment rentals, there is no guarantee of that.

Alternatively, with increased construction of luxury rentals comes the possibility of higher property taxes — which have already increased by over 300 percent in the last decade — and could make the gentrification problem even worse. Because Shortbread Lofts will offer spaces for rental and not for sale, it is not accountable to the Town Council Inclusionary Zoning Regulations for Residential Development, which mandates that 10 to 15 percent of units in a new development are set at prices that are affordable to low- to moderate-income households. While the developers did offer a $25,000 gift to EmPOWERment Inc. for affordable housing expansion, when compared to the profit to be made by the luxury rentals, set at the market rate of more than $700 per bedroom, one is forced to ask the question: who really gets to benefit from new housing developments in Chapel Hill?

‘Low-income housing’ remains a buzzword during local campaigns, and the need is real. According to The Orange County Affordable Housing Analysis published in 2010, Orange County possesses a rental gap of over 4,000 units for those making 50 percent of the median household income and over 6,000 units for those making 30 percent of the median household income.

The narrative of successful development in Chapel Hill needs to include our ability to fill these gaps in our community. Chapel Hill can show courageous leadership on the issue, but working to create spaces that are accessible to a diverse population will involve more aggressive backing on the part of our elected officials, and greater imagination on the part of Chapel Hill developers. Density alone does not translate into a vibrant community — what also matters is who can afford to take part in our local businesses, as owners and consumers.

It is also imperative that as development in Downtown increases there is a deliberate plan to reach out to Northside community members and pursue growth that is compatible with their concerns, their ideas, and their dreams for the town they have long called home.

In their Rezoning Application, Shortbread Lofts cites as a goal to “preserve, protect and enhance the Northside Neighborhood.” There is an opportunity for them to speak truth to this statement and really listen to what people in the neighborhood have to say. The students who will rent a space in Shortbread years from now will be offered the incredible privilege of living in Downtown Chapel Hill, but there is a breadth of lived experience that fills the space now, and it deserves our sincerest respect and consideration.