HICKS COLUMN: Rosa speaks up for victims
Things were going so well for The Citadel.
Last week, U.S. News & World Report named the military college the top public regional university in the South — for the second year in a row.
The Bulldog football team is 3-0, a feat that has brought The Citadel a lot of flattering press.
But a sex scandal can quickly overshadow all that.
Two cadets have accused a former cadet of sexually assaulting them in 2010, and SLED is investigating.
It’s an unfortunate situation, certainly for the victims, but also for the school. However, President John Rosa has his priorities in order.
“My biggest fear really isn’t about The Citadel, it’s about the victims suffering in silence,” Rosa says. “This is bigger than The Citadel. Sexual assault is everywhere. If victims fear coming forward, we’ll never get the truth.”
He’s right. That is what’s most important here.
Every year the Corps of Cadets gets the same message from Rosa — report anything questionable that goes on behind Lesesne Gate.
“There is absolutely no room for harassment, assault or hazing,” he says. “It’s just not part of what we do.”
The two cadets in this case waited a year and a half to come forward, after their alleged attacker, an upperclassman, had graduated. Rosa says it’s understandable; victims often fear that if they come forward they will become victims a second time.
He knows what he’s talking about. Lt. Gen. Rosa tackled sexual harassment and assault problems at the Air Force Academy before taking over at The Citadel in 2006. When he arrived, he immediately raised eyebrows by requiring cadets to take, among other things, classes on sexual harassment and assault.
During Rosa’s tenure the school has built on its sizable campus support network; these days, cadets can report any problems to counselors, an ombudsman and even human-affairs officers in their companies.
But ultimately The Citadel can only do so much. There are predators everywhere, and you can’t watch everyone every second of the day.
When it happens at the military college, however, it gets a lot more attention than it does anywhere else.
The Citadel was criticized for not reacting fast enough, or transparently enough, during the Skip ReVille child sex abuse scandal.
This time, the college did everything right: It brought in SLED, warned students and answered media questions immediately. It’s posturing to say it was “too transparent” this time. There’s no such thing.
Rosa will be the first to admit The Citadel isn’t perfect, “but we strive to be.” The college has made a lot of headway in that direction recently, and its response to the allegations this week was spot-on.
The sad truth is that sexual assault happens on every college campus in America. And it’s wrong to blame a college when it happens.
The true measure of a university is how it deals with these problems. And this week The Citadel proved Rosa means it when he tells cadets this sort of stuff isn’t tolerated.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org.