In April, the White House announced an ambitious plan to combat sexual assault on college campuses. This followed the development of a task force to examine certain colleges and universities with the worst epidemics of these deplorable acts. Fortunately, of the 55 schools highlighted by the report, the University of Texas at Austin was not counted among them. Two Texas schools, however, UT Pan-American and Southern Methodist University, were. And this University, despite not being listed in the so-called worst of the worst, still struggles with an ugly underbelly of sexual violence on campus directed at both men and women.
An example of this hideous underbelly was on full display this past week, when two prominent members of the UT football team, wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander, respectively, were arrested by UTPD and charged with sexual assault, a second-degree felony in Texas, as well as with improper photography. The two allegedly sexually assaulted a young woman whom Meander had met that night on Sixth Street. The Daily Texan respects the anonymity of victims of sexual assault.
The two will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the sexual assault. Sander faces an additional two years for an improper photography charge, a lesser felony. However, UT has already taken steps within its athletic department to punish these offenders.
Football coach Charlie Strong has suspended both individuals from the team and barred them from access to the practice facility in the interim. He has also promised more serious action in the future, such as permanent removal from the team, if circumstances warrant such action.
But the incident should also prompt a conversation about how the University should respond to such sexual violence on campus. With the assault occurring June 21, over a month before arrests were made, serious questions must be asked of both UTPD and the University’s internal mechanism for investigating these crimes.
Sexual assault and violence is a catastrophic problem on college campuses across the country. Recent statistics suggest that as many as one in four co-eds will be assaulted during their time in college.
When it comes to prevention strategies or other discussions on mitigating sexual assault on college campuses, one thing should be abundantly clear: The fault for rape lies completely with the rapist. It does not matter what the victim was wearing, how much she had to drink or how many of the perpetrator’s friends had committed the same heinous act (thus normalizing the tendency). In all of these scenarios, a common denominator is that the perpetrator is 100% responsible.
Education and extensive public awareness campaigns are the ideal solutions to this problem, as a way to prevent tragedies from ever occurring. But unfortunately, prevention is not sufficient in the real world, and sometimes punishment is the only tool we have to deter such abominable behavior.
Accordingly, I was glad to see a heavy-handed response, not only by the UT football team, but by the proper authorities. I look forward to seeing a grand jury indict these men — if the evidence against them is sufficient — and a trial to determine their guilt or innocence. If found guilty, I sincerely hope the full weight of the law is thrust upon them as a sentence to set as an example.
Horwitz is a government junior from Houston. Follow him on Twitter @NmHorwitz.
Correction: An earlier version of this column stated that both players were facing charges for improper photography. Kendall Sanders is the only player facing the lesser felony charge.