Last night students, professors and administrators flooded into the Dodge Ballroom of the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union to take part in the screening of The Hunting Ground, a recent documentary about the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses across the country.
Student-athletes rallied their whole teams, professors arrived in packs, and SC administrators came to show their support. Staff representatives had to seek out more chairs to accommodate the immensely supportive Springfield College community.
Springfield College Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, Gary Berte contributed heavily to the research and investigation that went in to producing this film.
Berte is a man with no limits. He is dedicated to this college and its students in giving everyone a voice.
“The purpose of this film is to start a dialogue, and to keep that dialogue alive,” explained Berte.
As people were still getting settled in their seats and harnessing their anticipation of this film’s rawness, Berte was spotted circling the room extending a hand to anyone and everyone who would accept it; personally shaking audience member’s hands, thanking them for their presence, acknowledging that they were there to support such a powerful cause.
The Hunting Ground is a film that investigates the incredibly disturbing truth about rapes on U.S. college campuses and the support, or lack of, given to victims by their own institutions. However, this film is not solely investigative. It is a real, personal account of students from several universities who were sexually assaulted, raped, and subjected to unthinkable acts of violence.
The film took a sweeping look at the large scope of this issue. It highlighted cases in a number of schools in the U.S., including some of the most elite institutions in the country such as Harvard Law School, Stanford, Notre Dame, and Florida State University.
Some of the most powerful accounts came from both men and women who gathered up the courage to re-tell their stories.
This film also provided the first public testimony of Erica Kinsman and her story of an alleged violent rape perpetrated by Florida State’s Heisman trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston. This week Winston is expected to be one of the top picks in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Kinsman’s story exhibited the correlation between rape accusations and individuals with high profiles. Her story also rallied awareness of the lack of support for victims from college presidents, peers, and public safety officials who would rather turn a blind eye than to receive the negative publicity; ultimately sending a message to rape victims at institutions that money is more important.
The film was followed up by an extended panel discussion led by Berte and other prominent SC leaders, professors and administrators.
Springfield College Chief of Police Mike Sullivan pledged transparency and supported President Mary-Beth Cooper in her efforts to address and prevent sexual assault on our campus.
Sullivan and Coordinator of Alcohol & Drug Education and Community Standards. Melissa Ortendahl cited the recent Clery Reports published by Springfield College as required by law. These reports indicated a very low report of sexual violence on campus, claiming almost non-existent numbers such as five total reports of “forcible fondling” and two accounts of “sex offence/forcible rape.”
Some students found these numbers troublingly low and took issues with the numbers on the Clery Report, suggesting some underrepresentation.
“There is a lack of consistency amongst sanctions for minor offenses across the board at various degrees of judicial history,” said Springfield College senior, Kelsi Lynde. “This is a common notion among the student body and results in lack of trust in the system. […] When it comes to major offenses such as sexual assault, students lack support in the system. If at a lower level there is doubt than there surely is with more severe violations.”
However, most if not all attendees shared in Berte’s hope that the film open up a better dialogue and improve the need to address this critical topic.