Columns, Opinion

Canceled: When did blank walls of concrete become more important than survivors of sexual assault?

With posters and chalk, students covered Boston University’s campus Feb. 7 to remind people that BU “has a rape problem.”

Organized by Prisha Kumar, a junior in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and co-founder of Campus Survivors, the event was one of many national protests under the University Survivors Movement.

Students saw the chalk being removed off of walls in the early morning after the protest, and the BU Police Department was even seen near the Warren Towers Subway when students were chalking.

Bini Ollivier-Yamin

The BUPD was quick to address concerns of chalk, but painfully silent about sexual assault on campus.

What does it mean when a campus police officer — one whose presence on campus is supposedly to protect students — cares more about the sanctity of blank Subway walls painted in chalk than their campus’ rape problem?

One possible answer: These campus police officers were never meant to protect students in the first place.

The BUPD Chief’s message on their official website states, “We are committed to ensuring the safety of the students, faculty, staff, and guests of Boston University.” And yet, in the wake of sexual assault survivors and allies demanding justice and accountability from the administration, the BUPD sided with a chalked Subway wall.

We’ve gone over the fact that the BUPD is not legally required to protect students. But to see the BUPD’s priorities so clearly in the wake of this protest is disgusting, and it’s impossible to stomach. How is threatening to arrest students for writing a removable message “ensuring the safety of students”? Who does that protect?

It is horrifying to see how the BUPD and BU administration so clearly and blatantly serve and value property over human beings.

Alexia Nizhny/DFP STAFF

In an infographic recapping the events of the protest — after they “didn’t hear” from top University officials — Campus Survivors wrote, “Instead, we saw BUPD take down posters, threaten to arrest students, and Facilities being told to remove chalk. BUPD proving that they’re part of the problem.”

Sexual assault survivors have stated multiple times that BUPD did not provide sufficient support or structures in their cases.

“BUPD is a joke,” Kumar wrote in her second open letter to BU addressing its lack of action and support for sexaul assault survivors.

BU spokesperson Colin Riley said the University took the posters down because they were not placed in public expression spaces on campus. 

BU President Robert Brown responded to emails about BU’s sexual assault problem. But his emails merely reiterated BU’s policies regarding its handling of sexual assault, and he did not address Kumar’s specific concerns over the University’s sexual assault reporting system, which Kumar says does more to protect prepetrators than survivors.

The actions of the BUPD should give you a clear picture of who these cops are really here to protect.

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