On Oct. 13, Professor Walter Williams, an eminent scholar in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, wrote a syndicated column that included comments about sexual assault which many found offensive. Since then, the Richmond Times-Dispatch has removed the column from its website and has acknowledged that the column fell short of its editorial standards. Members of our community and readers elsewhere have written to express their dismay or have posted their disagreements on social media.
While I rarely, if ever, comment on the opinions freely expressed by our faculty in their scholarship and media contributions, I am compelled this time to make it clear that the views expressed by Professor Williams in his column are his own and do not reflect the views of the university.
Blaming victims of sexual violence, which is vastly different from the way society treats victims of other crimes, has served to keep victims quiet, afraid, and unwilling to come forward. The impact of victim-blaming is one of the very reasons why colleges and universities have worked so hard to create victim-centered services along with stronger education and prevention initiatives.
In the last three years, we have seen a welcome shift. Victims and survivors of sexual assault are coming forward, are taking back this baseless narrative, and are writing their own—the very current #MeToo social media campaign is a great example. The result has been stronger institutional processes, and more accountability among students, staff, and faculty to intervene when they hear a sexist statement or see something occurring that could lead to sexual imposition or assault.
I feel strongly we are moving in the right direction. We have pledged to eradicate sexual violence on our campuses, and we stand firmly behind that pledge. We cannot achieve our mission of scholarship, learning and service if our students, faculty and staff do not feel safe.
For more information on Mason’s efforts to end sexual violence, visit stopsexualviolence.gmu.edu.