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Editorial

Sexual harassment generates turmoil

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November 18, 2011

Amid the furor regarding the Penn State child sex abuse allegations against retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, we here at the Student Voice find it pertinent to discuss sexual harassment and what it means to the UW-River Falls campus.

Penn State reportedly handled the allegations poorly, and as a result football coach Joe Paterno and school president Graham Spanier have been fired. Students and community members belonging to Penn State are outraged and deeply saddened by the loss of Paterno.

Sandusky was charged with a total of 21 felony counts for allegedly abusing eight male minors over a period of 15 years. Sandusky has continually asserted his innocence. “I have horsed around with kids. I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact,” said Sandusky, according to a Fox Sports interview.

Penn State coach Mike McQueary testified to witnessing Sandusky sexually assault a boy in a shower in 2002. Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett said that McQueary failed to meet a “moral obligation” to intervene.

UWRF is currently facing a similar situation as music professor Thomas W. Barnett faces second degree sexual assault of a minor and false imprisonment charges, which he pleaded not guilty to on Nov. 10 at the St. Croix County Circuit Court in Hudson. The charges stem from an alleged incident at the Hudson Theatre on Aug. 16.

According to the UWRF website, sexual harassment is defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

Coercive sexual contact and unwelcome comments of a sexual nature are offensive and undermine the safety, security, and dignity of all members of the university community. The University believes that the recognition of a problem is the first step toward responding to that problem. As UWRF students and community members, we are forced to question whether or not we feel that this is a safe campus.

We here at the Voice urge those who have been victim to or have witnessed any form of sexual harassment to do the right thing, and to not be afraid of reporting it. If a victim persues legal prosecution, he or she has legal rights under Chapter 950 of the Wisconsin Statutes.

You may report any incident to the University Police, 715-425-3133.