Verbal Coercion and Sexual Assault on College Campuses

The article published by Time sheds light on how college campuses, mainly the University of Michigan, are putting more focus on sexual misconduct and the role of verbal pressure. It explains how schools have found, through surveys, that there is a large population of students who have experienced unwanted sexual activity as a result of verbal coercion. It goes on to address how schools are using their resources in order to make students better aware of these negative actions and how to take part in healthy, positive sexual relationships.

I don’t believe the article has a very strong lede, to me the first paragraph did not stand out as much as it should have. The nut graph does provide numerous statistics pertaining to the topic of the article, but the quotes I believe could have been shorter and more impactful. It does provide solutions to the problem being addressed and more importantly why this problem is a major issue that everyone should know about.

In your opinions, do you think the article does a good job addressing the main issue and providing insight as to why it is news worthy? Do you think the structure of the article was properly established? Do you think the video at the end was a good resource to add to make the article stronger or does it take away value?

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12 Responses to “Verbal Coercion and Sexual Assault on College Campuses”

  1. When I first read this article, I did not watch the video at the very end. When I reread it for this post, I realized that video, although focused more on how a particular university handled a sexual assault rather than the types of assaults reported, allowed me to humanize the statistics. The article also validated one of the points that the blogger in the video highlighted. Sexual assault happens on every campus and it appears that anywhere from 17% to 25% have experienced unwanted sexual contact. The blogger said that schools are afraid that by having official reports of sexual report, that their campus will look unsafe to prospective students, but in fact campuses that report zero cases, are the ones that seem to mishandle what is undeniably occurring on their campus. Overall, I think that the video added value to the article despite the slightly differing topics. It seemed the emphasize the main issues in a broken system of addressing sexual assaults on campus. Had I not watched the video, I don’t think I would have remembered those statistics or thought about what is means to be a person that makes up that statistic.

  2. I do not even see a lede in this article, it seems to jump right into the nut graph. Also, I don’t think the second paragraph is entirely necessary. Most of it is reiterated in the following quote, which also is not very compelling and could have just been in paragraph form. I do not think the central argument of the article is very clear, it is just kind of talking about sexual assault on campus all around but not giving any clear angle to it. It jumps between the climate surveys and verbal pressure, saying that climate surveys show where schools need to focus efforts. However, it does not say specifically how schools are going to change efforts. The article gives some generalizations for reforms, but the kicker just says that UofM is going to change how students interact with each other. Since this article is two years old, I am curious to see what has actually been done on campus since then. I was a sophomore at the time and honestly do not see much change on campus in this regard, which makes me question how much UofM has followed through on their hopes. Lastly, I do not think the video directly ties with the concept of the article. The video is more about the case of how Columbia failed to address how a rapist was still on campus, while the article is about improving campus climates.

  3. I agree that there is a non existent lede in this article. But I think the intensive nut graph definitely works to show the severity of the situation. The author provides numerous statistics from different sources that all point towards the true scope of the problem of sexual assault. I think the way the author also addresses initiatives being taking to better educate students and help victims broadens the scope of the article by not only talking about the problem but also what’s being done to solve them. The flow of the article is very logical, the author addresses each survey/topic comprehensively before moving on. Also the way that article is ended with the quote from Rider-Milkovich drives home why these problems still persist despite educational/preventative measure being taken by administrators.

  4. The biggest thing that stood out for me was the lack of a personal story; something to put these statistics into context. While this piece was informative, there was nothing that drew me in and kept me interested. Since sexual assault is such a personal and painful experience, there may be good reason for the lack of a personal story. I think this relates well to the piece that Julie spoke about last class on her experience in the hospital. Her personal experience really put the story together and created a greater connection between the information of the article and the reader.

    How do journalists balance difficult subject matter and making a more personal connection with readers?

    • I agree that the lede could have been stronger by including a personal story, but I think the journalist attempted to do that by including the video at the end. I think some readers will have a stronger reaction to a story that is shared aloud, such as in the video, but it’s placement wasn’t particularly helpful. We aim to grab the readers at the beginning of an article, and that happens in the lede. To answer your question, it’s a delicate balance as we’ve discussed, but I think to make people care about sensitive issues and want to read about them, we have to continue including personal accounts because that gives a face to the issue. I do think that journalists need to look at all of the parties affected however, and that is where this article fails. Sexual assault on campus may be most common for women, but I would have appreciated seeing some mention or stats that focused on the challenges men and other groups face. If you want to get readers to feel a personal connection to the story, then you have to appeal to a wider audience.

    • I completely agree on the need of a personal story. Sexual assault on campus has become so normalized that the high statistics of college women that get sexually assaulted don’t faze people. Madeleine mentioned in her comment that the author didn’t provide a definition for “verbal coercion” and “verbal pressure” until toward the end of the article, which would’ve been more appropriately placed toward the beginning. I thought verbal coercion of sexual assault would be discussed more thoroughly throughout the paper. If the author had placed a personal story following a definition at the beginning, I think it would have flowed a lot better and provided a more comprehensive view of the issue.

  5. I was surprised that the editor allowed the writer to start consecutive sentences (in the same paragraph too) with “At Michigan.” My high school English teacher would have crucified me for that. Also, how did neither the writer nor the editor catch the error in “…transforming how students think about way interact with each other?” Even if Rider-Milkovich made that error in an emailed statement or something, they should have used a [sic]. This is a much higher level of sloppiness than I would expect from a magazine like Time.

    I agree with Hallie that the video was slightly off-topic, and due to that I didn’t think it added much to the article. Also, while the article named several policies and tactics that several schools are adopting, it didn’t specifically mention any other colleges or universities besides U of M. While the structure of the article seemed properly established to me, if schools changing policies and tactics in response to sexual assault data is the main issue, then I don’t think the article did a thorough enough job of addressing it.

  6. The first problem I noticed with the article is that “verbal coercion,” which is mentioned in the headline and throughout the story, as “verbal pressure” is not defined until the end of the story-when the SAPAC director finally provides the definition. In my opinion, this takes away from the article as it should be clear from the lede what the story will discuss. Overall, I thought the article was informative and drew an important link between the climate surveys conducted at campuses across the nation-yet, the story would’ve benefited from including interviews from experts at those universities.

  7. I agree that this did not have much of a lede, but the use of the statistic I would imagine, successfully drew readers in. I think it would be more effective if the author had written “1 in 5” instead of 20%, because although this is the same thing, it still tends to sound more grabbing. As stated above, I think including an individual’s story could’ve made this more personal and also add a “so what” factor to the article, given that this type of story is told frequently around campuses. Still, I think this article does a good job with starting small with the University of Michigan, then moving on to talk about this as a widespread issue across the country. Though the video was moving, I think I would agree it is not completely on topic. It addresses rape culture as a whole rather than this article’s focus on verbal pressure.

  8. I didn’t like this article. I agree that the lede was not strong, I think it would have been improved it if had opened with a Michigan student who is a victim sexual assault, and then expand the story to the University as a whole, and then to campuses around the country. I appreciated that the nut graph had so many statistics, and that it started with UM and then expanded nation-wide, although I almost found it too much and a bit repetitive. Some of the statistics were relatively similar, so I felt that it was a bit overkill. Also, the article briefly mentioned that “verbal pressure and coercion” do not get enough national attention, but I think the article could have expanded on why this may be (perhaps attitudes surrounded sex on campus), but talking to students and experts in the field. I also would’ve appreciated a greater focus on UM’s work to expand sexual relationship training. Overall, the article was really informative, but I would’ve appreciated a more personal story talking with students on college campuses to support the statistics and data the article offered.

  9. I also agree that this article could have used a personal narrative or two to add a human element to the numbers. Although it’s especially important to include statistics regarding issues such as sexual misconduct that often get dismissed by those who don’t understand their severity, this article does have somewhat of an abundance of them. I also thought the opening sentence in the nut graph, “University administrators were not surprised by the high level of reported misconduct,” was a strange, underwhelming way to phrase the idea that sexual assault is not uncommon on college campuses. It just didn’t sit well with me. I would have liked to see some information regarding what the university is doing to protect and help provide emotional support to victims, as I believe that’s a relevant point to touch on in this conversation.

  10. Thanks for reviewing the article! I think the article does a good job addressing the main issue because it goes pretty in depth and I think it does prove insight as to why it is news-worthy because it’s news to me even though it was written almost two years ago. It was also written when all the Brock Turner case was in the public eye so I think it came at a good time, and brought a new aspect that most people don’t usually think about.

    As for the structure of the article, I would have liked to see a shorter lede, or at least one from the point of view of a student who had been coerced into sexual activity. I guess I just didn’t like that only one person was interview for this article, it seemed narrow.

    Finally, I dis not like ending the article with this video. First of all, if I’m reading news, I don’t like to watch a video. Secondly, it was not based at the University of Michigan, which most of the article was focused on. Finally, the video was about rape and not about verbal coercion, which I think are similar, but for the argument of the paper, not similar enough.

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