Is the University of Tennessee Safe for Women?

At the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, fall is the time for students to worry about sexual assault. At least that’s the message in the current issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education. As reporter Robin Wilson tells it, the beginning of the school year is a dangerous “red zone,” when predatory campus males are most likely to attack female students. The article features a long red carpet on a campus walkway, which students sign as a promise to be alert to sexual assault.

The article strikes an apprehensive, near-paranoid tone: “Female students come here with a list of warnings: Never walk alone. Carry Mace. Don’t take Uber, because your driver could kidnap you. Keep the number of the campus police chief in your cell phone. With heightened national attention to campus safety, the most common advice that young women say they’ve heard from relatives and friends isn’t “Have fun” or “Do your best.” It’s “Be careful.”

The threat of rape seems inescapable: “With all the admonitions to stay safe, female students here describe a constant low-grade state of fear. They talk about almost never being on their own and developing secret hand motions to signal to friends when they’re uncomfortable somewhere and want to leave. Many parents who started tracking their daughters’ cell phones in high school still do.”

Constant fear and secret hand signals seem excessive to the actual sexual threat on campus. During 2015, 38 sexual misconduct complaints were filed on campus, up from 13 in 2011. The 38 last year may include sexual assault (the different categories are not separated out), but they also cover a wide array of misconduct, from sexual harassment to “sexual exploitation,” which might extend to peeping Toms, misunderstandings, seduction, or next-day regrets.

Also,the numbers include misconduct offenses by student organizations. In all, 8 complaints were filed with Knoxville Police and 3 with the campus cops, low numbers for a student population of 28,000.

A great many campuses contain groups that consider males inherently dangerous and toxic. Tennessee-Knoxville seems to be one of them.


  • John Leo

    John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

2 thoughts on “Is the University of Tennessee Safe for Women?

  1. Men oppress women.
    Whites oppress non-whites.
    Wealthy oppress poor.

    Nowadays, universities seem devoted to oppression narratives and victim classification.

  2. How sad that the promise of Feminism — we are women, hear us roar… we own our bodies, we are adults, free to act as we see fit, and more than capable of dealing with the consequences of our actions — has now been reduced to this quivering mass of infantile fear and helpless uncertainty.

    How tragic that the triumphant independence of the 60’s & 70’s has come to somehow embrace the religion of Victimology: rejecting responsibility for actions taken or decisions made if She has been drinking, taken drugs, been subject to psychological pressure, persuasion, or threat (as in the “threat to no longer love her”).

    That we have moved from Free Love, Love the One You’re With, Our Bodies — Our Selves, and the self-proclaimed glories of Sexual Liberation to a world in which Positive, Provable Sexual Consent must be provided prior to each escalation of a sexual contact is pathetic. Nor is this idiocy related, in any way whatsoever to the reality of human behavior (especially adolescent sexual behavior).

    But what is truly amazing in all this Sound & Fury is the fact that Mothers & Fathers continue to send their vulnerable daughters to the “1 in 5” pest hole — the American College — which now surpasses both 1945 Berlin (Soviet invasion & occupation) and current-day Democratic Republic of the Congo (“rape capital of the word”) as the most dangerous place on earth to be a woman. It simply boggles the mind!

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