Some of the most colorful moments in life happen on university campuses in the fall. At Utah State University, for instance, the leaves from the variety of trees on the Hello Walk have turned a dozen shades. The nights are crisp, the parties vibrant and, for freshmen, fond memories are being forged. But even the most colorful fish has an underbelly. And so do those heady moments that the semester brings.
Sadly, for many freshman co-eds, the season is unforgettable for ugly reasons. Each fall on university campuses, there is a spike in the number of sexual assaults. A dozen reasons are to blame. People are getting thrown together in mixers with strangers. The celebrations lead to drinking, and many young women find themselves in unfamiliar situations with unfamiliar men. A new sense of freedom also leads to taking chances. It is, alas, the perfect storm for a predator.
That's why we commend USU on its willingness to confront the problem of sexual assault each fall head-on.
Officials in Aggie-land are calling this time of year the Red Zone, and to make sure people are aware of the dangers they sponsor Red Zone Day, where information is given out not only about sexual assaults but about stalking, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, anger management, self defense, mental health and other concerns. Counselors suggest young women travel in groups or with a friend. Nevertheless, one sobering statistic is that only 8.6 percent of Utah rape victims were attacked by strangers. The women know their attackers in more than 90 percent of the cases. It's one reason USU is the only university in Utah with a One-in-Four chapter, a men's group dedicated to counseling and comforting women who have been sexually assaulted.
If universities are indeed a cauldron of free speech and open inquiry, it would be a travesty for schools to be coy and casual about warnings and to keep a lid on the number of crimes. Utah State University has chosen a higher road. If knowledge is power, and college is about knowledge, knowledge of the dangers of sex crimes is a must on college campuses.