Al Jazeera story on sexual assault puts KU in spotlight, draws university condemnation

An Al Jazeera America story featuring a booze-filled party of Kansas University students and disturbing descriptions of their regular sexual encounters at parties has prompted condemnation from KU leadership and student governance at the university.

In the video version of the story, three young men discuss having sex while intoxicated — and while their partners were intoxicated — even to the point of blackout. One senior identified as Casey said, “There’s nights where we go out and we wake up and we are with a girl and we don’t remember anything from the night before, like, ask ourselves, ‘Whoa, did I have sex with her, or no?'”

The men also discuss their fear of being accused of rape after such an encounter.

While KU officials, students and even the video’s narrator note that this sort of behavior could be found on college campuses anywhere, the university’s iconic Jayhawk was scattered throughout the house where the video was shot and on the clothing of the interviewees, throwing the university and its brand into a discussion about alcohol, sex and sexual assault.

The day after the story was released on Al Jazeera’s website, KU’s Student Senate issued a release condemning the “statements and mentalities” of the young men in the video.

“These attitudes do not represent the entire University of Kansas community, but nonetheless represent a serious threat to our campus,” the statement read.

The statement also noted the video ignored the university’s efforts to combat the attitudes about alcohol and sex voiced by the men in the video, but said that “existing efforts are not enough.”

Emma Halling, student body vice president, said she learned of the video after someone handed her a phone and played it for her. She and other student senators saw it was “immediately something that called for a student reaction.”

“The university obviously is going to have a position, but there is a level of peer accountability that needs to happen,” she said. “It’s indicative… from the statements of the men and the women in that video that people don’t have a healthy understanding of consent.”

For many observers, including those at KU, the talk in the video represents the problematic intersection of alcohol and sex not only at KU but nationwide. Tim Caboni, KU’s vice chancellor of public affairs, and Tammara Durham, KU vice provost of student affairs, both said the video could have been shot at nearly any university in the country.

“Unfortunately, this reporter found a group that was representative of some poor choices. I know that represents a minority of students on campus,” Caboni said.