Sunday, October 22, 2006

The color yellow

One week after a drunken freshman at the University at Albany reported the sexual assault heard around the region, Capital News 9 is still on the story, flashing the three familiar mugs that have become almost commonplace on the channel.

Since airing their first story about the case on Wednesday, the channel has reported on the case every day this week giving the impression the campus is roiling with sexual assaults. The most recent report focused on parents attending UAlbany’s homecoming weekend, where the reporter queries parents and students alike about the university's flailing campus safety.

Mind you, the only thing that would have prevented the incident that resulted in the arrests of freshmen Lorenzo Ashbourne, Julius Harris and Charles Guadagno would have been the woman simply packing it in for the night after a downtown booze bender. While some may argue that sensitivity training might have put an ounce of reason in the brains of these three jocks, it’s doubtful that it would have made a difference given the standard mental capacity of most college football players.

But with their wall-to-wall coverage last week, News 9 has painted a picture of a campus that’s both unsafe and prone to rape. In one story last week, they reported there were six sexual assault investigations so far this semester, which according to the news reporter, is one more than was reported at this time last year. To put this math into perspective, this means 11 cases of rape in a time period that amounts to roughly four months. News 10 aired a similar report, but never bothered to identify how many rapes investigations were active, other than to say “a number” were reported.

Well, let’s go to the video tape. Between the start of the fall 2005 semester and this weekend, the university has had exactly nine incidents of rape. And including the arrest of the three football players last week, there have been five people charged from these incidents. It should be noted that one of these rapes was apparently statutory, which is not to say it shouldn’t be grouped with the other four, but that it’s a bit different by nature

One case is still pending from September 2005, when a female student living in Colonial Quad’s Livingstone Tower reported an “unwanted sexual encounter” with a non-student. Also pending is an incident where an Alumni Quad resident claims she was assaulted following a house party in late October 2005.

This year, police investigated another rape on Dutch Quad in September, but the victim declined to press charges against the acquaintance she accused of committing the assault; a similar incident was reported this month on Colonial Quad, where again the victim decided to abstain from the criminal investigation.

Also on Indian Quad, a student reported being raped by an unknown man but declined to have a medical exam, effectively killing any investigation into the matter. Another rape was listed on the Web site as occurring at Tuscarora Hall, but it’s not clear from the posting if the investigation resulted in the arrest of Guadagno.

Given a campus population hovering around 20,000 people, this record of sexual assaults isn’t exactly alarming; although it should be mentioned that even one incident is too many for the victim of such an attack. And there is the assertion by some students that the administration purposely under-reports incidents of rape. But considering many of the aforementioned incidents result from off-campus drinking and acquaintance rape, there’s not a whole lot the university can do, other than to prosecute the cases they do get and continue to tell students the blisteringly obvious: no means no, don’t walk alone and don’t binge drink

There’s a sort of finger pointing that comes across in these news reports, as if the administration is condoning the activity of which these guys are accused. True, it was a bit sketchy the university didn’t contact the Albany County District Attorney’s office until nearly 12 hours after the crime was reported, which is a fact the media has yet to criticize. But to put parents on the spot about the university’s safety in wake of the arrests is journalism that’s a bit on the yellow side.

Even more outlandish is the fact that only two news agencies –neither being News 9 or News 10 –bothered to cover the brutal story of rape out of Schenectady, where two women were apparently kidnapped from their home at gun point from their homes, then repeatedly sexually assaulted. But without university officials to needle, who really cares about that incident.


Anonymous Dave Lucas said...


According to published reports, "The suspects and the victims knew each other, police department spokesman Lt. Peter Frisoni said.
There was also an indication that drugs were involved, Frisoni said. He would not say how they were involved. "

Somewhere I heard those involved already have had consensual sex, and when drugs are in the mix... I think this is vastly different from the UAlbany rape story.

You DO bring up some very valid points when it comes to media coverage!

7:05 AM  

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