Thursday, October 21, 2021

Explain the Asterisk aims for more accountability for sexual abuse

Serena Ganesan

“Explain The Asterisk” is a movement created by Syd Ovitt from the University of Vermont in 2018. Ever since then, chapters of the movement have sprouted up in various colleges nationwide. It primarily focuses on the issue where an asterisk on a student’s transcript is not annotated–meaning there is no distinction between being dismissed for bad grades or for sexual misconduct, stalking, or dating/domestic violence.

Emily Stanley, a freshman majoring in social work, is the managing director for the Plattsburgh chapter of Explain the Asterisk. 

According to Stanley, one in four women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted. However, in campuses, only less than 20% of reported perpetrators are found responsible and out of that 20%, only less than 5% will be dismissed. That 5% will still be able to get into other schools and find jobs without any mention of sexual misconduct on their record. The lack of an asterisk and/or annotation allows perpetrators on campus to exist freely without being held accountable and continue to be a threat for sexual assault.

“This is a huge issue, and there is definitely not enough recognition,” Stanley said.. “Especially with Explain The Asterisk, where the main goal is to have an annotation on transcripts. When people are dismissed from a college, it could be for any reason. They can go to a different school without anyone knowing. So, I think it is important for people to be aware.”

The gap between the number of people prone to sexual assault, violence or stalking and the number of perpetrators held responsible, dismissed, and convicted is staggering. Yet, even the few who are held liable are made allowances by the system to continue living a life without any sort of accountability and assault more people.

“Pushing for legislation in other states to have a law requiring annotations when there is an asterisk on a student’s transcript is the main goal. Only New York and Virginia have laws requiring annotations while some states don’t even have an asterisk in the first place,” Stanley  said, when talking about the long term goals for the chapters and the organization.

There are also issues in Greek life. Women in sororities are much more likely to be sexually assaulted and men in fraternities are more likely to commit sexual assault. Stanley emphasized that the conversation about why that is happening and what can be done about it is necessary. 

Stanley said she hopes to work with Title IX on campus and hold meetings where information about sexual assault is provided to students.

Students can get involved with Explain the Asterisk by following @ExplainAsterisk on Twitter and @explaintheasteriskplattsburgh on Instagram to get updates on upcoming meetings and events. One can also sign the petition to push for legislation on their website explaintheasterisk.org and volunteer by emailing the organization at explaintheasterisk@gmail.com.

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