papercuts

[color-box color=white]Ouch, that hurts, doesn’t it? Paper Cuts are our short, erratic and slightly painful updates on current, local and national events. This time, we cover a frat-powered campus rape bill and indoor air pollutants. [/color-box]

Safe and Unsound

Ever wonder, perhaps in a fit of masochism, what a campus-rape bill largely backed by fraternities would look like?

Wonder no more, because the nightmare is real! TheSafe Campus Act was introduced to the House in July. It would limit universities from punishing students accused of sexual assault unless the police are involved. And it’s gaining money and clout: Most recently, the same fraternity groups that backed the bill have hired former Republican Senator and majority whip Trent Lott — the same guy who called homosexuality “dangerous, unhealthy” and “just plain wrong” — to lobby for it.

So what does the bill do? Should it pass, it will require schools to follow the Department of Education’s investigative standard, which calls for a “preponderance of evidence,” or over 51-percent certainty, to find a student in violation. Under the act, schools could choose their own standard, including the criminal standard of “beyond reasonable doubt,” or a 99-percent certainty.

In September, The Huffington Post contacted national groups that work with sexual assault victims. Twenty-eight actively opposed the bill; “a handful” didn’t take a position; none of the groups would endorse it.

The vast majority of rape survivors already do not report to police for a number of reasons — police have a track record of not respecting victims and generally not holding perpetrators accountable. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 7 percent of reported rape results in an arrest; 3 percent are turned over to a prosecutor. And many student victims don’t have the money to go to trial. And even if they do, as University of Virginia advocacy group One Less wrote in an open letter, because of the 100,000 rape kits untested nationwide and because of the dozens of intermediary steps between report and conviction in which most cases get dropped, rape cases often seem “unwinnable.”

So I’m not sure what they mean by “Safe Campus.” Safe? For whom?

By Samantha Schuyler

Air Beware

If you listen closely you can hear the collective nag of every grandparent in the world saying, “I  told you so.” Turns out, we do need to get off our butts and go play outside.

A study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives shows that indoor air pollutants are impacting the way we think and make decisions. Carbon dioxide levels; chemicals from things like newspapers and ceiling tiles; and poor ventilation were major culprits in the study, which focused on environmentally controlled spaces like office spaces and classrooms.

The study — led by a group of scientists from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, SUNY Upstate Medical University and Syracuse University — investigated the results of exposure to the combination of these chemicals rather than singling them out and focusing on them individually, as health-related research tends to do. The study is one of the many that suggest indoor pollution is becoming a serious health issue.

The participants’ average cognitive scores were 61 percent higher when tested in “green” buildings with low volatile organic compounds compared to the participants tested inside conventional buildings. In addition to green buildings’ positive impact on the environment, they also prove to be beneficial in tasks that test productivity, learning and safety.

Indoor pollutants can be 100 times worse than outdoor pollutants, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This is especially alarming, as we spend most of our time inside — more than 90 percent of it, in fact.

What does this mean for you? Maybe next time you want to Netflix and chill, think about taking it outdoors.

By Sarah Senfeld