"Shocking and disheartening": Students told us how they felt watching the Kavanaugh hearings

To many, the scene that Christine Blasey Ford described during her congressional testimony was a stark reminder that not much has changed since the 1980s
September 28, 2018, 7:11pm

"Gut-wrenching.” “Disgusted.” “Inconclusive.” “Disheartening.” “Shocking.”

These are the words that college students across America are using to describe how they feel about the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

To many, the scene that Christine Blasey Ford described during her congressional testimony on Thursday was all too familiar, and a stark reminder that not much has changed since the 1980s, when her alleged assault by Kavanaugh took place. Two other Kavanaugh accusers have alleged a culture of excessive drinking, and one said she’d been drugged at a party where Kavanaugh was present.


“In my personal experiences, I have never been drugged, but I have had guys attempt to get me drunker by serving me drinks that are not portioned correctly or continuously filling my cup without my asking,” said Olivia Emery, 18, a sophomore at American University studying international relations. “This may not be an attempt to sexually assault me, but to make it easier for me to give consent.”

“This is happening on Harvard’s campus, it’s happening on every college campus, and at every high school in this country,” said Alexandra Shpitalnik, 20, a senior at American doing a double major in government and Slavic languages and literature.

“The toxicity of masculine culture permeates through these institutions,” said Stuart Hamill, a 23-year-old senior at the University of Utah majoring in Peace and Conflict Studies. “American men need to confront these types of behavior.”

On Wednesday, the Utah school hosted Anita Hill, the law professor who endured her own congressional hearing in 1991 after accusing then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, her boss at the time, of sexual harassment. Hill gave a keynote lecture about sexual harassment and assault, Hamill said.

Ford says that Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were both teenagers. Another woman, Deborah Ramirez, came forward over the weekend to allege that Kavanaugh thrust his penis in her face at a party when they were in college at Yale. And then on Wednesday, Julie Swetnick, who says she was introduced to Kavanaugh at a house party in Washington, D.C., alleged that she saw him at a party lining up outside a bedroom where a woman was being gang-raped.

“Within my friend group, there was a young man that had been accused of rape, of raping someone that I was also an acquaintance with,” said Camille Coleman, 19, a political science major at Bergen Community College in New Jersey. “These kids my age are willing to believe an alleged rapist over a survivor or over the alleged victim. And that’s the narrative always.”

Some students, like Gabrielle Failoni, 21, a journalism major at the University of Arkansas, said their professors gave them the OK to skip class to watch the Kavanaugh hearings, while others reported their whole classes were watching together.

But some felt like their school administrators hadn’t done enough to address the issue of sexual assault on college campuses in light of the allegations against Kavanagh.

“None of my professors have brought it up,” said Chelsey Flores, 21, a senior at the University of Idaho studying graphic design. “It’s really shocking and disheartening to me that nobody is talking about it. The administration hasn’t sent out any emails. I feel like this is a bigger issue than to have just the women’s center talking about it.”