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The Biggest News Stories Affecting Collegiettes This Year

From colleges and universities taking a stand against sexual assault on campus, to the legalization of marijuana, to major job growth, 2014 was a year filled with news affecting collegiettes. Here are 10 of the biggest news stories from the year:

U.S. Senators Announce Sexual Assault Legislation: In July 2014, a bipartisan group of senators announced a measure to curb the startling number of sexual assaults on college campuses. The legislation requires schools to make public the result of anonymous surveys concerning assault on campuses and to impose significant financial burdens on universities that fail to comply with the law’s requirements. The New York Times reported that this federal action came in response to the Department of Education’s first comprehensive, publically released list of 55 colleges and universities that are under investigation for their handling of Title IX complaints earlier in 2014.  

Hobart and William Smith Sexual Assault Scandal: In July 2014, The New York Times exposed Hobart William Smith’s adjudication of a rape complaint in which a freshman student, Anna, was highly intoxicated and repeatedly raped by male students who were cleared of charges by the school. According to the report, the internal records, along with interviews with students, sexual assault experts and college officials, reflect an educational institution so incapable of handing the severity of the case, as the disciplinary panel operated with scant accountability and limited protections for the accuser or the accused. The college’s misconduct in handling the allegations both during and following the trial highlighted the extreme measures universities needed to take to better protect students from sexual assault and other Title IX violations.

“Carry that Weight” Sexual Assault Protest: Emma Sulkowicz, a survivor of sexual assault, carried a 50-pound mattress wherever she went across the Columbia University campus as a part of her senior art thesis as a protest against sexual assault on campus, especially the one she says she endured. The project, called “Carry that Weight,” inspired several college students across the nation to join in solidarity with Sulkowicz and carry pillows, stuffed animals, and even other mattresses across their own campuses.

UVA Gang Rape Story in Rolling Stone—From Fact to Fiction: In October, Rolling Stone published a story entitled “A Rape on Campus,” which described a vicious gang rape of a female student named Jackie at a University of Virginia fraternity house, the University’s failure to respond to this alleged assault, and the school’s secret history of indifference to many other instances of alleged sexual assaults. Generating worldwide headlines and mistrust in students, the story once again brought combating sexual assault to the forefront of college agendas. Yet, following the article’s publishing, several sources came forward to address major discrepencies in the report. Now acknowledging the inaccuracy of the original report, Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner has asked Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism to conduct an independent investigation of its story about an alleged rape at the University of Virginia, specifically where major portions of the victim’s story have proven untrue, according to the New York Post.

Recreational Sale of Pot in Colorado:  Following Washington, Colorado officially legalized recreational marijuana, or pot, in 2014. However, marijuana is still illegal under federal law (which President Obama says he will not enforce), making the drug’s legality tricky, especially on top of rigorous state regulation and taxes. Still, the marijuana movement is growing; Oregon and Alaskan citizens have voted to legalize pot, and cities like Philadelphia have supported its decriminalization, as NBC News reports.

Heartbleed: Heartbleed, a bug that compromises the transfer of online sensitive information, was revealed to the public in early 2014, contributing to a massive debate over the internet’s safety, privacy, and the role of the National Security Agency (NSA). Essentially, Heartbleed could allow anyone to utilize your usernames and passwords and sneak into anything from your email to your online bank account. The bug invited even more controversy when the NSA was accused of having used it to secretly pursue security objectives.

Kidnapping of Nigerian Schoolgirls: On April 15, 2014, 276 Nigerian girls at an all-female Nigerian boarding school were kidnapped by Boko Haram, a terrorist organization that stands against Western and women’s education. Despite the launch of the #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign, by October, only 57 girls had escaped. 219 still remain captive.

Deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner: Schools across the country have exhibited fervent responses to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the lack of indictment for the police officers who took their lives. Many students, often along with faculty, have staged die-ins, protests, and marches. Young people also launched viral Twitter campaigns, most notably #BlackLivesMatter.

Many Division 1 Athletes Came Out as the First Publicly Gay Athletes: In April, Derrick Gordon of UMass-Amherst became the first openly gay athlete to play Division 1 basketball, as was reported by the New York Times, while the Huffington Post reported in August that Arizona State’s Edward “Chip” Sarafin became the first active football player in a Division 1 program to come out as gay.

2014 Was the Best Year for Job Growth Since 1999: 2014 has been a fantastic year for employment gains, adding the most jobs to the American economy since 1991, according to CNN. Dropping from last year’s 7 percent, the unemployment rate has remained at 5 percent, demonstrating real progress. Though wages have not significantly increased, overall hiring has definitely improved.


What do you think were the biggest news stories of 2014? What stories impacted you the most? 

Kaitlin is an English and Art History double-major at Hamilton College. 
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