In the same month that national reports were released citing Syracuse as the city with the highest rate of poverty among people of color in all of the United States, the national media was talking all about us. But it wasn’t about poverty.
In the week when the Onondaga Nation hosted the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships, bringing thousands of sports fans and athletes from all over the globe to our region, the sports world was abuzz about Syracuse. But it wasn’t about lacrosse.
It was about the Kiss Cam, that roving video mischief-maker that searches Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome during sporting events and tries to get couples to smooch for the audience.
The Kiss Cam has been a silly feature of Dome life (not the silliest one) for a long time, but suddenly SU has suspended the practice, citing concerns that it might lead to sexual assault. All because of a Post-Standard letter-writer who says he saw a woman caught in the camera’s gaze being kissed by the guy sitting next to her, even after she had waved him off.
My preferred solution to this would not be to ban the Kiss Cam. Instead, I would encourage any woman whose companion subjects her to this unwanted touching to slap him across the face while the camera lingers, followed by ushers ejecting the boorish and hopefully chastened offender. But for now the Kiss Cam sits in a dusty room, not knowing if, like Tom Brady, it will be restored upon appeal, or whether it will join Bernie Fine in disgrace.
The speed with which SU moved to shutter the Kiss Cam is stunning. And officials have done it so publicly, apparently to demonstrate their concern with the epidemic of sexual assaults on campus. This is the kind of openness that students begged for last year when SU waited until summer recess to announce — via internal memo, in obscure language only a bishop could love — the closure of the Advocacy Center (formerly the R.A.P.E. Center), which provided services and advocacy to victims of sexual assault.
The Advocacy Center’s functions were transferred to the Counseling Center, prompting student protests. Counseling Center personnel, they argued, are not the same as advocates, they are not specialists in dealing with sexual assault, and there aren’t enough of them to handle the need. SU countered that it would add staff and that the Counseling Center offered confidentiality that the Advocacy Center could not. (Long wait times at the Counseling Center, recently chronicled in The Daily Orange, seem to back the protesters’ point.)
Kicking the Kiss Cam to the curb is a feel-good measure that suggests SU is taking this issue seriously. But no credible person who has looked at sexual assault on campus has pinned the blame on these voyeuristic drones. (Safety advocates generally call for more cameras in public places as a deterrent to crime.) There is plenty of evidence that alcohol consumption is high on the list of factors leading to sexual assault, but the Carrier Dome has not suggested shutting down those lucrative taps. (Most other NCAA venues are dry, by the way.)
More than one writer has suggested that the violent, testosterone-soaked culture of football itself begets the male entitlement mentality cited by the Post-Standard letter-writer who kicked off the Kiss Cam debate. But no one seems willing to touch that topic.
(Full disclosure: My high school newspaper once called for ending the homecoming pageant because it objectified women and might be seen as endorsing rape culture. As one of the editors of the paper, I was beaten up and whipped — with belts — by half the football team for my trouble. So there’s that.)
Jon Krakauer, the journalist of Mount Everest fame, released a book earlier this year called Missoula. It’s about college football and rape, a crime Krakauer says we still don’t take seriously enough. The subtitle tells you all you need to know: “Rape and the Justice System in a College Town.” The LA Times calls it “must-read for every football coach in high school and college, their athletic directors, and players and parents.”
Or we can just blame the Kiss Cam.