An Open Letter to UConn President Susan Herbst (for Dummies)
I’ve received/read more than just a couple comments to the effect of “I think what Carolyn Luby wrote was stupid…but she shouldn’t be harassed…” & “…this is why no one likes feminists, what is she talking about?” Barstool, & general body of people who clearly don’t know how to look any deeper than the surface (especially my Huskies): this is for you. Thank me later.
There’s a lot of “how is a new mascot going to rape women?” going around. So I decided to break down her arguments for those challenged in literacy.
Luby is not saying that the new mascot is going to jump off the page and literally start raping women on campus. Luby is saying that promoting a more aggressive and hostile logo is speaking directly to a crisis we have going on here at UConn. Of course, many people are going to say that what she’s getting at, as far as the incidents of rape are concerned, is baseless and coming from nowhere. And that’s largely because survivors of sexual assault/rape are constantly silenced by outside factors. Rape isn’t always recognized as a legitimate crime and is vastly under-reported as a result. Across the country 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to police and 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone the victim knows and 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance (RAINN). Student athletes fall very much under the category of acquaintance rape, and the fact that Herbst cosigns the logo as more aggressive just underscores her lack of knowledge about what kind of message that can send to students, which is what Luby was pointing out. Luby is pointing to the fact that yeah, there may be very few reported cases of athletes being less-than-stellar, but that’s because they’re not all getting reported. There’s fear, intimidation and shame involved in the process. Even when Luby went to the police to report all of the threats she’d received, there was an issue of illegitimacy. The new “aggressive” logo is just a physical marker of these facts. It is a personification of a larger, on-going issue. It is a commentary on the obvious fact that UConn is one of many schools that shows that it cares more about athletes than regular students. The culture of violence against women perpetuated by sports teams is very much ingrained in American culture and that’s why many people are having such a hard time deconstructing it and understanding Luby.
Luby used the new “more aggressive” Husky to spearhead a conversation. It was something that, as a university, we were rallied on different sides of: some love it, some hate it, some don’t really care. I fall somewhere in the middle of not really giving a shit what it looks like, but I do think it represents a larger campus problem, in a few ways. It represents the fact that Herbst cares a lot about the visual impression of UConn but not a whole lot about what is going on on the inside. This includes the fact that they’re renovating the outside of ancient buildings to make campus look pretty for passersby, but students that go here know what the inside of Beach Hall, Monteith, the Austin Building (CLAS), etc. actually look like. Luby’s assessment of the new Husky speaks to the fact that we openly ignore the behavior of our athletes because it’s just easier to do that. Re-branding them on the outside is easier than to teach them a different culture from the inside. This sends a message that their behavior is acceptable. The quote from Geno Auriemma stating “[the new logo] is looking right through you and saying, ‘Do not mess with me’…” is again, a personification of the idea that nobody can touch these athletes. Meaning that victims of sexual assault should just accept their fate and not complain about it.
It appears to me that student athletes (particularly our men’s basketball team) are lauded with praise and approval and all of this awesome shit for throwing a ball around. These same men who couldn’t compete in the finals because they couldn’t keep their collective asses in gear outside of the basketball court. I’m not shaming athletes, I’m not saying they’re not an asset to our University and community. I’m not saying that being a student athlete is easy or a joke, or something to be taken lightly. Because it’s not, and that’s not the point being made at all. But our male athletes need a reformed culture and a better education with regard to violence against women. It’s indicative of athletics nationwide, even at the high school level, to promote violence against women.
And even still, there is so much more to UConn than just our athletes. UConn itself needs to stop emphasizing athletics so much and reemphasize this school as an institution of higher learning and show its students not involved in athletics that they matter, too. There are so many other everyday students that could use half the support that is given to athletes whose behavior, merely from [personal] observation, is unacceptable. And the fact that Herbst is choosing silence as a way to deal with Luby’s issue over publicly speaking out, just underscores everything that Luby said: if you’re a regular student, you don’t matter, especially not in the new aggressive face of UConn Athletics.
I stand by what Carolyn Luby said. It was a well-written personification of a bigger issue, and we need to keep that in perspective. Whether you agree with her or not, she sparked a very important dialogue. I thought our student body would be more supportive, and they might be, if our President, Susan Herbst, would speak up.