Defending TSL's Recent Coverage
Editorial Board | April 14, 2011, 10:35 p.m.
A number of online commentators have taken TSL to task for a front-page story from last issue, "Date Rape Drug Stories Go Unnoticed on Claremont Campuses." Though the authors of these comments were unrelenting in their attacks on the author and the article, their criticism was rigorous and thorough. For this we are thankful. However, The Student Life stands behind the publication of this story, and we would like to take this opportunity to address the claims of our critics, and also to clarify the purpose of the article.
The primary accusation leveled against the article is that it proves neither that any of the alleged victims were slipped date rape drugs, nor that they were sexually assaulted. This is true. In fact, in many ways it's the point of the article. The students interviewed for this story are faced with an impossible dilemma. They have no memory of the night's events and no physiological evidence to corroborate the presence of drugs in their systems. (As stated by the medical professional interviewed for the story, not all drugs that can be used as sedatives can be found in routine examinations.) Indeed, if there were proof beyond a reasonable doubt, presumably the cases in question would have been resolved.
As for the charge that the article makes unfair charges of sexual assault, this could not be further from the truth. Sexual assault is not mentioned until the end of the article, in a quotation from the Director of the Monsour Counseling Center, who says that 95 percent of sexual assault cases she has seen involve alcohol, and that it is unknown how many of these cases involve drugs administered against students' will. This is an empirical matter that we welcome our readers to fact-check at their own leisure.
The misconception that the article alleges sexual assault may be due to the use of the term "date rape drugs." Some clarification may be in order here: The term is used in the article to describe the surreptitious administration of drugs into alcoholic beverages. Just as it is often impossible to tell whether or not this has been done, it is also often impossible to know whether or not it might be done with the intention of sexual assault. For this reason, the article remains neutral on this point.
As one commentator observed, it is true that, among those students interviewed for the story, as few as none or as many as all of them may have been sexually assaulted on the nights they suspect they were drugged. The critics seemed to imply that this diminishes the credibility of their stories. We think it makes it that much more important that these stories are heard. Even the possibility that students may be vulnerable to sexual assault due to factors largely beyond their control is incredibly frightening on a campus that touts safety and community, and we think it should not go unnoticed.
It has also been claimed that the article unfairly implicates CMC in allegations about date rape drugs. While it is true that all the interviewed students attended parties at CMC on the nights they suspect that they were drugged, this fact is in no way meant to implicate the school or its students. One commentator pointed out that CMC parties are carefully planned and that CUC’s security is thorough. While we may agree with this assessment, it still does not mean that CMC—or any other college—is immune from the threat of date rape drugs.
The charges of bias against CMC's administration are equally baseless. In fact, the article quotes one of the student's parents as describing the school's handling of her case as "sensitive and cooperative." And the possible victims of date rape drugs surely can't be blamed for expressing their disillusionment with the bureaucracy required to handle their difficult cases.
The most fundamental charge against the article is that it is anecdotal. We cannot deny this. Indeed, it is only possible to report a story like this with anecdotes, for many of the reasons outlined above. The critics claim that many people who fear they have been slipped date rape drugs actually may just have had too much to drink, but there is no way to know. What we do know is that the students in the article–who each had less than three drinks on the nights in question–felt strongly enough about their experience to either report their experiences to school officials or to be interviewed for this newspaper.
As a student publication, we were faced with two choices: to report the story with the only evidence we had, the anecdotal but powerful testimony of students who suspected that they had been drugged, or to ignore this testimony and confine their stories to silence. We chose the former course. While we always appreciate criticism of our reporting, we will not apologize for this decision.