For the Safety of Students: Five Questions for Mary Koss

Mary P. Koss, Ph.D.

With close to 300 peer-reviewed publications and a number of academic awards to her name, it’s hard to believe that University of Arizona Regents’ Professor Mary P. Koss once had to fight her way into the doctoral program in psychology at the University of Minnesota. Her test scores put her head and shoulders above other applicants, but it took a tense meeting with the department head — in which she let a bit of profanity slip out — to finally get accepted into their graduate school. Clinical psychology was a very male-dominated field in the early 1980s, when she was starting her career, and that was all too clear when a colleague shared his idea for a study that would explore male undergraduates’ attitudes toward rape — by having models pose in varying sizes of padded bras and be rated for their desirability and culpability if raped.


The term date rape was first used in the news media 35 years ago this month.


From that conversation, though, came the seed of an idea that would soon set Dr. Koss apart from her peers. At that time, Dr. Koss was at Kent State in Ohio, still years before she joined the University of Arizona. She made a name for herself studying campus sexual assault by developing a survey that revolutionized efforts to gauge respondents’ experiences of sexual aggression and victimization, revealing a higher prevalence than previously thought. Her initial study was publicized 35 years ago this month, in Ms. Magazine’s September 1982 issue, in an article that also marked the first time a national news publication used the term date rape. Both Dr. Koss’ research and the introduction of that term to the national conversation were game-changers in many ways.

At the time the article was published, most rape-prevention programs on college campuses were relatively new and narrowly focused on the danger posed by strangers — the assailants waiting in alleyways, rather than the familiar faces in classrooms or dorms. Dr. Koss’ research, as well as the stories writer Karen Barrett reported from Stanford University and the University of Connecticut for the Ms. article, revealed that many cases of rape, especially those committed by the victims’ peers and acquaintances, were often ignored, denied, or misunderstood as something other than rape. The concept of date rape helped many people recognize rape — their own or others’ — that had been perpetrated by people known to the victims.

Greater awareness and understanding of the problem of campus sexual assault soon followed, but the 35 years since then have seen both progress and setbacks. In fact, as the anniversary of that historic Ms. article approached, news began coming from the Department of Education that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos vowed to revisit Obama-era policies that addressed campus sexual assault. A series of information-gathering meetings included a group that, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, seeks “to roll back services for victims of domestic abuse and penalties for their tormentors.” Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Brian Davidson for Osborn School Board

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

Among elected officials, school board members are in a unique position to directly affect the lives of students under their governance. When a school board understands that accurate, comprehensive, and inclusive sex education is part of a well-rounded education for all students, it can help empower students to make informed, healthy relationship choices and to respect the humanity and diversity of the individuals they’ll encounter in their lives.

Brian Davidson has lived in the Central Phoenix Osborn School District for 10 years, where he’s been an active community volunteer in that time. Currently, Mr. Davidson seeks to serve his community by running for Osborn School Board, where he plans to advocate for smaller class sizes, continued arts and music education — areas that have been cut in many districts throughout the state — and more classroom resources for teachers.


“Children need to be empowered with information about their bodies and prepared to make responsible decisions by the time they are in middle school and high school.”


Brian Davidson was kind enough to take the time for an interview on October 16, 2014.

Tell us a little about yourself.

A third generation Phoenician, I grew up on the west side of Phoenix. After attending Phoenix College, I graduated from Northern Arizona University. I worked for nonprofits focused on education and career development. From 2003 through 2011, I worked in environmental policy for the State of Arizona and the Environmental Protection Agency. A resident of Central Phoenix since 2002, I served on the Encanto Village Planning Committee and the Woodlea Melrose neighborhood board. I live with my wife Michelle and two children.

Why is it important to you to be involved with education in your community?

As the parent of two school-age children, the quality of our public education system is of fundamental concern to our family. I want to ensure every child in our community has access to a world-class education. Continue reading