At every turn, the University of Missouri-Kansas City failed students after word spread of an alleged rape in a dorm last month.
A crime as serious as rape demands a carefully considered response from UMKC officials. Instead, their statements have been garbled, weak and late.
School officials sent a message of callous disregard. Worse, many students believe the university is not a trustworthy partner in ensuring their well-being.
It was as if UMKC administrators didn’t recognize that news of a student raped in a dorm room would terrify. It was as if they didn’t understand that communication would be paramount to restoring the student body’s confidence that they are safe on campus.
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The details of the alleged sexual assault, as recounted in court documents, are every coed’s nightmare.
A young woman goes to a dance club with a male companion. She drinks two shots and half of a beer earlier in the evening and a blue fruity drink the man buys her at the club. She remembers nothing past that point.
She wakes up the next morning, back in the residence hall.
Her pants and underwear are off, her shirt is on backward and her bra is undone. The man is still there and admits having sex while the woman was highly intoxicated, according to the charging documents.
University security cameras show a man carrying an unconscious woman into Johnson Hall in the early morning hours of Feb. 24, according to the probable cause statement. That man, Juan Contreras of Greeley, Colo., has been charged with rape.
Students were rightly horrified that no questions were apparently raised as the man hauled his victim into the hall and up to a dorm room.
Initially, the administration let the circumstances of the alleged rape dictate the school’s haphazard response. A bumbled statement by a university spokesman further inflamed a tense situation, unnecessarily fueling student distress.
It does not matter that the young woman had willingly gone out with the accused, that much of the alcohol was consumed in another city or even that police had been informed and the man was no longer on campus.
The threat for students is that lax protocols surrounding access to residence halls suggest that another woman could become the next victim in a similar scenario. This is a frightening prospect that university officials initially failed to even acknowledge, much less address.
Nearly two weeks after the alleged attack, Chancellor Leo Morton issued a letter, promising a review of training and safety measures for the residence halls.
By that point, words on a letterhead were insufficient.
Fed up, about 60 students reacted with anger, protesting at administrative offices. College students should never have to resort to physically pressing their way into an administrator’s office to be clued in on measures concerning their safety.
Rape happens most often not with a stranger jumping out from behind a bush, but between acquaintances.
Predators ply their victims — especially college students — with alcohol or drugs dropped into drinks. UMKC students recognize this danger. They understand that simply being young and social can put them at risk.
UMKC students deserve an administration that is equally vigilant on their behalf. They need to know adults in authority are there to protect them.