Slippery Rock University has received a lot of media attention this past week because a 20-year-old female student was reportedly raped by at least two individuals behind Ginger Hill Tavern in the early hours of Saturday morning, according to police reports.
While SRU has had reports of alleged rapes and sexual assaults in the past, including some earlier this year, there has never been this much media coverage surrounding the events. Throughout this week, three separate Pittsburgh news stations have sent vans and reporters to campus including WTAE (channel four), WPXI (channel 11), and KDKA (channel two).
This is giving the university a lot of publicity in areas where it usually doesn’t receive any, but it’s not good publicity according to Drew Silinski, a 20-year-old business major and Pittsburgh native.
“I can’t even tell you how many calls and texts I’ve gotten this past week from my friends and family about this,” Silinski said. “It seems like the only times SRU gets any coverage is when something bad like this happens.”
Silinski went on to say how it is a little embarrassing that the only impressions his friends and family get of his university is that it’s not a safe place to be.
Students aren’t the only people concerned with the media attention SRU is receiving, according to Rita Abent, the director of public relations at SRU.
“I think that the media coverage is important because it’s dealing with a health and safety concern,” Abent said. “Having the media here to report on that is helpful.”
However, she did take issue with the way some of the reports came out in the beginning because of some inaccuracies that were reported.
“There were instances where incorrect information was broadcasted that tended to enflame the situation,” Abent said. “The situation was already tragic enough.”
One of the inaccurate reports that Abent talked about was that the victim was in critical condition. While Abent did admit that the victim was taken to the hospital, it was only to be examined according to protocol in any police investigation into an alleged rape or sexual assault.
The victim was released from the hospital directly after her examination, and was even in class on Monday.
“The media came out with a lot of unsubstantiated reporting over the weekend,” Abent said.
Abent, like Silinski, also showed concern for the perception of SRU to people who might not have any exposure to the university other than through the news. She pointed out the fact that most SRU students woke up and went about their business Friday night and Saturday morning and were perfectly fine isn’t news. While she knows that the unusual and shocking material is what makes news, she would’ve liked to see a little more reporting before the story was broadcasted.
“It becomes almost like one-upsmanship to see who can get more dramatic,” Abent said. “It’s not like there was a marauding gang running through Slippery Rock—which like it kind of sounded like in the beginning.”
Abent did give the media credit for running corrections and doing more in depth reporting on Monday and later in the week, but she attributed the issues with the early reports and the corrections made in the later reports to the nature of the news media.
“You have to take the good with the bad,” Abent said. “And the good is getting the info out there and raising awareness.”