Photo: Young Democratic Socialists of America
The social indignation that brought about the #metoo movement and the political outrage that beckoned the women’s march have coalesced into a deeper understanding of structural misogyny and sexual violence. This understanding has been cemented by Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
For those unfamiliar, Trump’s nominee to the highest judicial body of the nation has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault. His personal history of sexual violence and his career of policing women for exercising agency over their own bodies point to Kavanaugh’s desire to take society backwards hundreds of years.
The national conversation about his appointment has compelled women everywhere into action. Not only are hundreds of thousands of women taking to the streets to demand justice, they are starting a national conversation about how deeply entrenched sexual violence is in all institutions. Our City University is no exception.
In an abhorrent blog post linked to his CUNY page, Brooklyn College professor Mitchell Langbert goes beyond defending Kavanaugh by asserting: “If someone did not commit sexual assault in high school, then he is not a member of the male sex.”
He has the audacity to double-down by declaring that, “In the future, having committed sexual assault in high school ought to be a prerequisite for all appointments, judicial and political.” In short, he is using his authority as an instructor to instruct – to instruct men to prove themselves by committing sexual violence.
Later in this post, Langbert writes, “Given that it is unclear that Kavanaugh did a thing, the defamation that he has suffered at the hands of the media is a disgrace.” What is disgraceful is that women have to live in fear of existing because of the Kavanaughs and Langberts that lurk in every corner.
When we talk about a systemic crisis, we look at these cases not as isolated to a few bad actors, but as dots that take monstrous shapes when connected.
Just a few weeks ago, a group of professors at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice were caught running a drug and student prostitution ring. Leonardo Dominguez, Ric Curtis and Anthony Marcus, the professors in question, are veterans in the education system just like Langbert.
In this case, and despite being accused of sexually assaulting students in the past, it was not until their operation became much larger and more sinister that authorities took the case seriously by investigating the professors, who are now on paid leave.
On CCNY’s campus, hundreds of freshmen students are taught by Jay Jorgenson every year, the very same mathematics professor who was accused and dismissed from Yale University for the highly publicized sexual harassment of a female first-year student in 1996.
The CUNY system has always been hailed for its inclusive and diverse nature; “the college of and for the people.” How is it then, that students’ calls for justice are muted by an administration that refuses to acknowledge the culture of sexual violence that plagues our campus? CUNY, like every other university, cannot function without students — and yet, students hold little to no power in our school’s affairs, not even when these affairs constitute a threat to our physical and mental wellbeing.
By refusing to address the plague of sexual violence, CUNY executives wash their hands of the consequences that female students must endure as a result — consequences that follow victims for the rest of their lives. CUNY has been presented with a choice and has chosen to alienate women by financially supporting and politically defending rape advocates and rapists.
This is not a CUNY that supports the success of its students and it is not a CUNY we should be supporting. As students we cannot permit this absolute violation of our human right to learn in dignity and without fear of harm.