Campuses must counter assaults on game days

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Jason Lindo, an economics professor at Texas A&M University, had a hunch about campus sexual assaults at Division I football schools and whether their rates were affected by big-game days. So he and several colleagues scoured 22 years of FBI data, comparing assault reports to local police on game days with those filed on non-game days.

The researchers found a strong link between football game days and an increase in reported rapes by college women ages 17-24. Lindo’s study, released Dec. 28, said sexual assault reports increased 41 percent during home games and 15 percent during away games. If the home team was an underdog that defeated a higher-ranked team, reported rapes went up 57 percent.

Heavy drinking also appears to be a factor in the statistics that showed hundreds of assaults at 128 schools. It goes without saying that school administrations must develop strategies to curb overconsumption of alcohol, but they also must educate students about sexual assault and use the study as a guide toward new approaches on game days.

Based on a 2010 study on the economic losses associated with crime, the Texas A&M researchers estimate that each Division I-A campus rape carries a social cost of $267,000. The annual cost of these assaults is at least $68 million. While the price in dollars is steep enough, the damage to individuals from alcohol-related sexual assault is too huge to tolerate.

Every college and university, not just those with Division I teams, should consider the research. They know that alcohol combined with sports can be a factor in campus rape, but do they have the courage to confront and do something about the problem?