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Donald Eastman should readdress the issue of sexual assault and harassment

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President Eastman sent an email out on Nov. 23, 2014 to address sexual assault, titled "An Open Letter to Students":

"Dear Eckerd College students,   As you know, the College has launched an educational and awareness campaign to attempt to minimize sexual harassment and assault in our community. The goal is to raise the awareness of all community members with respect to sexual harassment and assault and to help prevent those incidents by that increased awareness.

You also know that our College is not alone in its concern about such behavior, principally among its students. And you know that these incidents are almost always preceded by consumption, often heavy consumption, of alcohol, often by everyone involved in them.

You can do your part in helping this College and this culture address this nexus of problems by doing two relatively simple things:


1.  By limiting your own consumption of alcohol, and encouraging your friends to do the same. Socrates included wine at his Symposium, but he did not get drunk.


2.  You can be thoughtful about the dramatic and often negative psychological effects that sexual activity without commitment can have. Virtue in the area of sexuality is its own reward, and has been held in high esteem in Western Culture for millennia because those who are virtuous are happier as well as healthier.  No one’s culture or character or understanding is improved by casual sex, and the physical and psychological risks to both genders are profound.


Every year at the end of the Eckerd College Commencement ceremony, I say to the graduating class, “I hope you feel not only well taught, but well loved. We will miss you.” I mean every word of that. This open letter is written in that spirit – not as preachment, but with great affection and true, deep and lasting concern.

As always, I am available for your responses or a visit to my office. I wish each of you good luck in your final weeks of the semester, and a happy, healthy, virtuous 2015.

Sincerely, Donald R. Eastman III President -- 
Dr. Donald R. Eastman III President Eckerd College 4200 54th Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33711 Telephone: 727 864 8211 Fax: 727 864 1877   


In response to Eckerd College's President, Donald Eastman III, my brother and I wrote this Open Letter:

An Open Letter to President Eastman,

I have read your email to the populace of Eckerd College, and hope you will consider my thoughts on the issues being discussed.

To begin, I disagree with your assessment of casual sex. All genders have a right to understand their bodies and the bodies of others, and casual sex or experimentation is a great way to learn, so long as the participants are willing and enthusiastic. While there are some risks involved, I believe that the students of this College are capable of making the right decisions, especially if given the proper education of those risks. It is also important to note that sexual assault and rape are not about sex, but rather they are about power and control.

In addition, I acknowledge that alcohol can be a contributing factor to sexual assault. However, neither alcohol nor consensual casual sex can be truly faulted for sexual assault. The roots of this issue go much deeper. I believe that laying the blame solely at the feet of the two issues you mentioned is an injustice to those affected by sexual assault, and will not solve the problem.

Instead of laying the blame where you have, we should think more about the impact of objectification and disrespect, and the perpetuation of these attitudes in our “Western Culture.” We have all been raised by a society that is dominated by male preference. Though not all rapists are men, the vast majority are, and the lack of respect toward other genders is a primary factor in sexual assault.

As a community, it is our responsibility to develop programs to prevent sexual assault, aid those affected by sexual assault, and put in place policies that heavily punish the perpetrators. I believe that a forum of students and staff should be convened immediately to discuss the implementation of such programs and policies. There has already been action toward starting a forum like this, but it needs to be done now. Today. The only way to affect change in a community is to bring it together and find a way to work toward a common goal.

Sexual assault is a problem that can not be glossed over with simplicity. It is complex, and requires complex solutions. You can not solve it alone, nor can we as students. I hereby call my peers, and all of the staff of Eckerd College, to action on this issue. Research must be done, and programs must be put in place, and those programs must be backed by both students and staff. Failure in this regard is not only dangerous, it perpetuates ignorance.

I appreciate your attempt to begin discussion on this topic. I hope you understand why I think you have failed to address the real issues. I hope also that you and others heed my call to action.

A concerned Alumnus


Please help us raise awareness of this issue and allow President Eastman to address the topic in a new light. By signing this petition, we may help to change the Eckerd community and other communities for the better.

Thank you,

Joshua R. Keeler

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