Sexual Assault and Alcohol

I’m skeptical of [assistant dean] Jyl Shaffer and Reed’s sexual assault prevention program [“New Dean Oversees Sexual Assault Prevention,” March 2012] because one word was missing from the article: alcohol. I suggested that the University of Colorado (whose freshman dorms are across the street from my house) develop a combined alcohol abuse and sexual assault prevention program. The woman in charge of the university’s rape education program strongly opposed this suggestion, saying that women have the right to get drunk anywhere, anytime they want, without fear of sexual assault. But the chairperson of the Standing Committee on Substance Abuse (the university’s alcohol policy board) and the university health clinic’s sexual health nurse both loved my idea. They organized students to design a poster, which was so popular that they couldn’t keep it on dorm hallway walls (the students took the posters to put in their rooms). Last year I taught a high school course about dating and relationships, which included two hours about alcohol and sexual consent. I hope that Ms. Shaffer sees the fundamental link between alcohol and sexual misconduct.

—Thomas David Kehoe ’82

Boulder, Colorado

Editor's Note: David is right to emphasize the role of alcohol. Indeed, Shaffer’s mission on campus is to help students understand the paramount importance of effective consent in sexual activity—and consent may not be effective if a participant is intoxicated. The purpose of the article was simply to announce Shaffer’s hiring and bring readers up to speed with changes in Reed’s adjudication process, rather than to examine the many factors involved in sexual assault. However, she encourages alumni who have an interest in this issue to send her an email at