Contact CU Independent Opinion Editor Emily McPeak at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact CU Independent Assistant Opinion Editor Hayla Wong at email@example.com.
Last summer, former CU student Austin Wilkerson was convicted of raping a fellow student two years prior, receiving a combination of jail work-release and probation. Many people, on campus and across the country, have reacted to this case with emotions ranging from indifference to outrage. Last week, we explored the issue from our own perspective. We then asked around on campus to find out what our fellow Buffs have to say.
“I think [Wilkerson’s punishment is] a little lenient. If he raped her…he should be in jail, not out there.”
On sexual misconduct at CU: “It’s at college in general, it’s not especially bad at CU…colleges are getting more upfront about it, not trying to brush it under the rug…[But] there’s not a ton of news on it. That news doesn’t get outside of the community. I went to Montana Tech and there were the football players falsely accused of rape, and that was big all over the country. Those [stories] get more attention that the actual accusations…a lot of people don’t want to hear when it actually happens. Student want to hear the drama of [an accusation] being false.”
“I think he should have gone to jail… [but] most rapists don’t get punished. No matter where you go, you can be in danger. Whether you are a CU student or not…I think it has to fall back on this whole manhood idea society has, that men are entitled to women. I think men get off because that whole perception that they are powerful and masculine while women are fragile and frail…but that’s not our system’s fault that’s our society’s fault.”
“I feel like [Wilkerson] should have [received] a slightly harsher punishment…it’s a problem on campus, of girls not feeling safe, and it’s something that has to be enforced and punished…the punishment should be more jail time…there should be a minimum [jail time] so there isn’t as much circumstantial stuff happening…so it’s widely acknowledged and accepted what the punishment is.”
On what the school is currently doing: “The class that freshmen had to take was very thin; there wasn’t a lot of information to it. I don’t see a lot of stuff around campus acknowledging the fact.”
“I feel like there needs to be a better process to actually get these people in jail or give them some type of punishment for what they did, but it’s hard to do. It’s horrible and it’s getting too common. I hate hearing stories about it because it makes me sad that it’s such a big problem. We need to have a better way to fix it, even though I understand that it’s a hard problem to fix. I don’t really know what the school could do…but overall [the university is] not in charge of that. They should try to prevent it [from] happening on campus, but they can’t control it.”
“I think this punishment is probably fair, allowing [Wilkerson] to continue to live his life and rehabilitate, that’s the main point of the prison system. It’s his first offense, and he should be able to prove that he made a horrible mistake and he’s going to do what is necessary to rehabilitate himself and be a functioning member of society.”
“The school, from what I understand, takes reports of sexual misconduct seriously… when you have 30,000 plus people who are leaving home for the first time…and you add in alcohol and no supervision, things are going to happen that are not ideal…The school does take them seriously when they arise, but it’s not an easy thing to solve…it’s a work in progress and probably necessary, to a degree, to continue education both in high school, middle school as well as [at] the collegiate level.”
“For rape you should go to jail…it should be that cut and dry.”
On whether or not the school is doing enough: “There’s a lot more awareness now about colleges not doing much. But at the same time we don’t really see any change…there’s more media about it, but nothing’s really changing. The school could do more.”
“Especially in a college environment, there’s a big difference between doing dumb things when they’re intoxicated and a rapist pursuing the streets…since I don’t really know [the people involved] or the case, I wouldn’t really be able to say what [punishment is] fair and what’s not fair.”
On what the school is currently doing to help: “I think they’re trying. I just worked on a program with CU to film videos for incoming students that are modern and for millennials so that it doesn’t just get blown off. I think there’s a disconnect between the people who are teaching it and the people [they] are teaching it to…the kids don’t realize how much they need to know, and the adults are doing their best to try to get them to receive the information, but they’re not exactly sure yet how to do that. And then that’s when you get situations where you get the girl or the guy, because it’s not that women are the only one’s sexually assaulted, who do things and then feel shame and guilt and, you know, it just snowballs from there… …the biggest thing is getting [people] to listen. Not everyone cares.”