Bring back MasculinUT

James Treuthardt

MasculinUT sought to teach men strategies to help reduce sexual and interpersonal violence on the UT campus. However, following fervent criticism from national conservative media outlets, MasculinUT has been put on hiatus. UT needs to prioritize bringing back MasculinUT instead of bowing to pressure from the press.

MasculinUT was originally a part of UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center, but after conservative outlets criticized the program for allegedly treating masculinity as a “mental health issue,” UT moved the program to the Office of the Dean of Students. Dean Lilly, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, called a steering committee together to compile recommendations to improve the program.

Carol Longoria, chair of the MasculinUT steering committee and deputy to Dean Lilly, said the committee did not consider critiques from the conservative media in their recommendations, but the committee did convene in May to response to them. According to Longoria, there’s no official date set for when MasculinUT will return to campus. However, programs targeting sexual violence at UT, such as MasculinUT, are vital.

According to the 2017 UT CLASE Health Report survey, sexual violence runs rampant at UT-Austin. Nearly 15 percent of undergraduate women at UT reported being raped. 28 percent said they experienced some form of unwanted sexual touching.

While not all men perpetrate crimes against women, most perpetrators of sexual violence against women are men. MasculinUT was one of a variety of programs — such as Voices against Violence and Title IX — designed to target sexual violence. Most of these programs address women specifically, but MasculinUT spoke directly to men.

MasculinUT relied on the idea that reducing restrictive masculinity and cultivating more healthy forms of masculinity would lead to lower rates of sexual violence and assault. Sociologists and psychologists argue that unhealthy masculinity — including certain behaviors men are taught growing up — can lead to violence later in life. Some of those behaviors include being told not to cry or not open up to male friends. MasculinUT promotes healthy masculinity which allow men to open up about their issues and work against sexism, other biases and sexual violence.

While many conservative outlets criticized MasculinUT’s view of masculinity and questioned their conclusions, MasculinUT compiled over 30 academic sources which highlight how they can harness healthier views of masculinity to reduce sexual violence. MasculinUT relied on thorough research, not personal opinion.

When the University chose to temporarily end the program they allowed conservative media to win rather than pointing out the flaws in the coverage and supporting a beneficial program. While the decision and its implications cannot be undone, UT can improve the situation by bringing the program back as soon as possible. MasculinUT can properly combat the results of the CLASE survey. Sexual violence needs to be fought on all levels, and by bringing men and MasculinUT back into the conversation we can help improve this campus.

Treuthardt is a journalism and marketing junior from Allen.