Students at the University of Connecticut cheered wildly after the music duo Timeflies mentioned their campus' so-called "rape trail" during a performance at a Homecoming Week kick-off event.
During the Oct. 7 performance, captured on a recently circulated video, Cal Shapiro, one of the members of Timeflies, raps about UConn cultural references over a remix of Miley Cyrus' "We Can’t Stop." He mentions the "rape trail" early on:
"How could they shut down Carriage, and what you know, I never save it, we gonna bring it back like the m****f**kin' rape trail."
"Rape trail" is the nickname for a wooded path between the main UConn campus and the nearby Celeron Square. As UConn alumnus Brian Zahn describes it, the trail connects the dorms on the Storrs campus to off-campus apartments and has only two exits at either end. Students sometimes use it for illicit drinking.
The crowd of UConn students at the concert responded to the "rape trail" mention with a loud cheer. Some of them took their excitement to Twitter:
TIMEFLIES JUST FREESTYLED ABOUT PASTA BAR LIL BRIT NICKLE NIGHT AND THE RAPE TRAIL
— Jackie Fisher (@jackiefishh) October 8, 2013
Timeflies uconn freestyle was insane tho, when he mentioned the rape trail and carriage he had me dying
— Nick Graz (@nickgraz9588) October 8, 2013
— Darci Swain (@Darci34) October 8, 2013
The "rape trail" nickname has been around for years and it causes controversy from time to time. In early 2012, UConn's student TV station funded the production of a sketch in which a woman runs through the "rape trail" to an emergency Blue Light station and pleads for help, believing she's about to be sexually assaulted by a strange man. The computerized voices from the Blue Light threaten to rape her and call her a "b***h" among other obscene names in the video.
This Vine shows what the "rape trail" is like to walk on:
And here's a photo:
Right after rapping about the "rape trail," Shapiro asked the audience to go crazy like it's "spring weekend." Several high-profile attempted assaults on the "rape trail" have taken place during that annual UConn celebration.
A few days after the Timeflies concert, a two female students reported to the Connecticut State Police that they had been sexually assaulted in "a wooded area" by two men they met at a party, according to a campus-wide email from the UConn administration that was shared with The Huffington Post.
Brian Zahn, a recent UConn graduate, expressed disappointment in a blog post at the "rape trail" cheering:
If students were truly concerned about the possibility of rapists hiding behind the trees, there would not be cheers. There would be dead silence. Instead, the “rape trail” has been embraced as part of UConn’s culture, a jokey reference to the things that make us Huskies. Sexual assaults have occurred on the trail. This is something students vocally supported by cheering. The verse was supposedly performed in good humor, but I wonder when we, as UConn students and alumni, began to view sexual assault as a punchline, and not as a serious problem.
UPDATE, 9:15 p.m.: University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst issued a statement Tuesday evening condemning the cheers at the mention of the "rape trail" during the concert:
The sentiment expressed by some attendees at this event in no way represents the mindset or culture of the UConn student body as a whole. Those who cheered at a reference to sexual assault may believe they were being ironic or humorous in some way. They did not succeed. Far from it, and regardless of intent, it has been interpreted by some as a display of indifference to the issue of sexual assault and to victims of sexual violence.
Many engaged students at UConn are deeply involved in sexual assault prevention, and I am very proud of these leaders. They are among so many thoughtful students who devote their time and effort to philanthropy, to improving our institution, and, most of all, to one another.