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Title IX and the Clery Act
April 25, 2014 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday, twenty three Columbia University students filed a federal lawsuit, alleging that the school "allows accused perpetrators of sexual assault to remain on campus, has too-lenient sanctions for perpetrators, discourages victims from reporting assault and denies accommodations to students with mental health disabilities (which they say result from their attacks)." The complaint is the first of its kind, linking Title IX and Clery complaints with alleged violations of Title II, part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which provides that schools must provide accommodations based on disability status.

Buzzfeed: About one-fourth of the complainants are students who identify as queer and say they hope the more than 100-page complaint will help bring attention to the discrimination they face when it comes to counseling, advising, and the adjudication of their cases... “Queer survivors are consistently discredited and disbelieved,” said lead complainant Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, a junior at Columbia. “It was absolutely a priority to reach out to people whose identities and experiences diverge from the traditional narrative.”

The federal lawsuit comes three months after Columbia University's president announced new, more transparent policies in how the school, as an institution investigates and punishes sexual assaults on campus.

“Filing now is a way of saying we’re not going to back down,” Marybeth Seitz-Brown, CC '14 and one of the students who filed the complaint, said. "This is the last resort—it’s time to get the law involved.”
posted by roomthreeseventeen (191 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
"...allows accused perpetrators of sexual assault to remain on campus..."

In this country we have this thing called "presumption of innocence", which means that we don't punish people who are only "accused". They are entitled to due process of law, and are only punished if they are indicted by a grand jury, and then convicted in a court trial.

Allowing "accused perpetrators" of sexual assault to remain on campus before they are indicted and tried is the correct thing to do.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:46 AM on April 25 [41 favorites]


Related: Dear Harvard, You Win
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:47 AM on April 25 [2 favorites]


But activists say the Columbia complaint is the first to publicly link Title IX and Clery complaints with alleged violations of Title II, part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandates that schools provide accommodations based on disability status. Survivors who suffer from assault-related post-traumatic stress disorder and depression are often discriminated against and denied rights, the complainants say.

If that linkage gets traction, it could be a big deal. A lot of schools are facing serious Title IX liability on this issue, and if that turns out to intersect with ADA they really will be forced to take action.

In this country we have this thing called "presumption of innocence", which means that we don't punish people who are only "accused". They are entitled to due process of law, and are only punished if they are indicted by a grand jury, and then convicted in a court trial.

That's true for criminal trials, but doesn't describe how schools' internal judicial processes work.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:49 AM on April 25 [18 favorites]


That's true for criminal trials, but doesn't describe how school's internal judicial processes work.

Yes, I know. And that's a travesty. In too many universities, the presumption of innocence is turned on its head and has become a presumption of guilt. Shall we talk about Crystal Mangum? Not every accusation is true, and people shouldn't be punished by the university solely because they've been accused.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:54 AM on April 25 [15 favorites]


False accusations still happen. Nobody should be punished for an allegation.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:54 AM on April 25 [2 favorites]


Not every accusation is true, and people shouldn't be punished by the university solely because they've been accused.

Why is a discussion about Title IX violations -- in other words, violations of the rights of the victims of sexual assault and rape -- being turned into a discussion of the rights of the accused? A centerpoint of the lawsuits is, in fact, a pattern of excessive deference towards and protection of the accused, which of course violates the rights of the victims. A fair process respects the rights of both parties, not just the one.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:57 AM on April 25 [85 favorites]


Before we get too far down the "innocent until proven guilty" trail, the three complaints filed with the Office of Civil Rights are not publicly available as far as I can tell. What we have are press characterizations of the claims, which as we all know are often not 100% accurate. Time Magazine describes one of the claims as "allows accused perpetrators of sexual assault to remain on campus," while the NYT describes a similar claims as "serial offenders remaining on campus." It's not clear what the precise factual basis of that claim is.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:59 AM on April 25 [12 favorites]


[Talk about the actual articles please and don't turn this into an embarrassing textbook derail about false rape accusations.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:04 AM on April 25 [81 favorites]


A centerpoint of the lawsuits is, in fact, a pattern of excessive deference towards and protection of the accused, which of course violates the rights of the victims.

Up to and including telling victims of rape that speaking out is as bad or worse than the threat of rape itself.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:06 AM on April 25 [13 favorites]


Jessamyn, the first line of the second paragraph is what gives rise to the false accusation concern. It is not a derail.

Protection of the accused does not violate the rights of the accuser: it is the fundamental requirement for justice. If the problem is that perpetrators are overly protected, that's a legitimate problem, but those are different categories.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:07 AM on April 25 [10 favorites]


>One of the primary criticisms of the Board—and of the way Yale handles allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault in general—is the propensity to deal with cases quietly and internally. The complainants are also troubled by the University’s tendency to shy away from disciplining the perpetrators, in favor of placing the cases under bureaucratic review.

Getting the "law" properly involved would seem to be a positive thing.

>we don't punish people who are only "accused"

Apparently, we also don't "investigate" them either.
posted by anti social order at 8:08 AM on April 25 [22 favorites]


(Also, the growing series of Title IX lawsuits over the past few years has come up before in FPPs at least twice (2011; 2013). The links in those FPPs have good background on why these lawsuits are being filed and what the implications are for schools.)
posted by Dip Flash at 8:08 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


And, this is in the same week that Brown is also under fire for allowing a perpetrator of sexual assault to stay on campus.

It's a winning week for the Ivy League all around.
posted by ActionPopulated at 8:08 AM on April 25 [5 favorites]


It's a clever catch 22. Schools push really, really hard for students to go internally for accusations of sexual assault. Then they ignore them, or don't properly look into them, or use weird student judiciary bodies, and then once they've done that, they tell the victims that nothing has been proven (wonder why) so of course you can't kick off the accused.
posted by jeather at 8:09 AM on April 25 [24 favorites]


Yeah, honestly, if the falsely accused are being systematically fucked over by universities, let them file their own lawsuit and we can talk about them in the FPP about that. Until I see years of evidence of that, I'm not particularly interested in the 'what if' game.

Good for those who are stepping forward, despite all the pressure (both personal and societal, as has been displayed here) to not make waves.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:14 AM on April 25 [63 favorites]


the first line of the second paragraph is what gives rise to the false accusation concern. It is not a derail.

I read the articles. Flooding this thread with comments about that one issue and not referring to the articles is a textbook derail in rape threads. MetaTalk or the Contact Form are completely fine options for people who need to discuss the nuances of this.
posted by jessamyn at 8:15 AM on April 25 [23 favorites]


Related locally (to me) yesterday:

Top gov't officials address campus sex assaults

When, in 2014, folks from the Department of Justice have to go on a roadshow to college campuses to convince state, local, and campus officials to take the matter of sexual assault on campus seriously, it's a problem -- one that should be attacked at all angles, including the lawsuits described here.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:19 AM on April 25 [4 favorites]


In this country

-- As many as 25 percent of female students experience sexual violence, according to Mary Koss.

-- As many as one in seven male students also experience sexual violence, according to Robin Warshaw.

-- 1 in every 36 women will experience a complete or attempted rape by the end of a college school year, according to the National College Women Sexual Victimization study.

-- A significant number of colleges have environments where "the incidence of rape is reported by observers to be high, or rape is excused as a ceremonial expression of masculinity, or rape as an act by which men are allowed to punish or threaten women," according to Michael Kimmel.

-- Participation in campus activities is a privilege, and one that can be withdrawn, temporarily or permanently, at the discretion of the campus, based on codes of conduct they put in place and enforce, so long as this is not in violation of the law.

-- Being temporary removed from an educational environment is not the same as being accused and found guilty in a court of law, and it is inappropriate to parallel the enforcement of campus policies with the enforcement of law.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:19 AM on April 25 [44 favorites]


Why is a discussion about Title IX violations -- in other words, violations of the rights of the victims of sexual assault and rape -- being turned into a discussion of the rights of the accused?

cf. http://www.metafilter.com/138602/Otherwiseit-would-be-unfair-on-the-molester
posted by Billiken at 8:19 AM on April 25 [8 favorites]


Also, given that we are talking about people who were "not yet found guilty":
the university found her assailant responsible for four counts of student misconduct, but will allow him back at the school in the fall. [...] The board recommended a two-year suspension from school for the attacker. That would have allowed Sclove to finish her studies without her assailant on campus. But J. Allen Ward, Brown's senior associate dean of student life, reduced the sentence to a one-year suspension.
Sounds like they were found guilty most of the time but still allowed to stay in school.
posted by jeather at 8:22 AM on April 25 [20 favorites]


I'm happy to see this. The entire way our education system treats sexual assault (from middle school up and through college) is shameful. Schools do pressure students into "keeping it on campus" and encourage students to NOT get the police involved. As a matter of fact, this extends way beyond campus life. When a co worker was drugged and suspected she was sexually assaulted at a high end hotel in Miami Beach, the security personnel insisted I talk only to them (I was her boss and trying to help her out through the crisis) and they would get the police involved, if need be. I told them no thank you, I'd be calling the police myself.
posted by Kokopuff at 8:25 AM on April 25 [5 favorites]


Where is this pressure to keep it on campus coming from and why? Totally coincidentally I was talking to a university administrator the other day about assault cases and he seemed to think involving the actual legal/law enforcement structure typically led to better results for the school/case.
posted by selfnoise at 8:31 AM on April 25


Note that failing to investigate and act on reports of sexual harassment including sexual assault in the workplace or at educational institutions is a federal offense. Threatening retaliation against people who report harassment or assault is a big problem if substantiated.

That disciplinary procedures were not taken against some people accused of sexual assault is only one aspect of the complaint. Some other issues from the articles include:

* Administrative roadblocks for things like course transfers to separate the person making the complaint from the accused.
* Difficulties in providing support services for queer and transgender students reporting sexual assault.
* Threats of administrative retaliation against people reporting sexual assault.
* Discouraging people from filing formal complaints.

Even if survivors choose not to file a formal grievance complaint, their mental health needs should be treated professionally and sympathetically, and it seems that a key aspect of this suit is that isn't happening.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:31 AM on April 25 [10 favorites]


Schools do pressure students into "keeping it on campus" and encourage students to NOT get the police involved.

Sadly, this is really common in many institutions, all of which are far more interesting i their external image than anything that might happen to a given member. I mean, if the college finds evidence of wrongdoing, shouldn't they be reporting it to the police? Or reporting it first and deciding what institutional action to take after the police have investigated?
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:31 AM on April 25


Based on my many years of being involved in university life, I know one thing: universities do not like "bad publicity" and so have managed to keep many things from the local press and use their campus police rather than let students go to regular police when there is a criminal complaint.In so doing, a lot of crime does not gezt seriously treated.
posted by Postroad at 8:34 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Also, the "they were both drunk! it wasn't assault" thing is less true than we thought.
When researchers at the University of Toronto and the University of Washington observed young people's behavior in bars, they found that the man's aggressiveness didn't match his level of intoxication. There was no relationship.

Instead, men targeted women who were intoxicated.
posted by jeather at 8:35 AM on April 25 [33 favorites]


This is the way we change rape culture. And it is so overdue. Close ranks around the person who was assaulted. In the statistically unlikely event it turns out she was not assaulted by the person she named, then you can worry about making things better for the wrongly accused.

I was assaulted (not sexually, but pretty violently) by a student who was subsequently (voluntarily) hospitalized, diagnosed with a schizoaffective personality disorder, heavily medicated and then re-enrolled in the college where we had met and were both attending when he assaulted me. The assault was a bizarre, surreal event and although I was unconscious for a few moments, I did not seek medical help; I did not call the police; I left no paper trail. It was not even an isolated event, although I was never personally physically harmed after that one time.

Then, my senior year, after he'd been in the hospital for most of our junior year, he showed up in the one class I needed to graduate and I was terrified. But the administration appeared not to care, felt their hands were tied, it was not their job to make me feel safe. Told me I could drop the class if I was not comfortable with him in the class because, as far as they knew, he was a fine young man.

You see, they had no proof, although every single dorm RA, the fraternity house leadership where he hung out, and most students from our freshman class on campus (there were 1100 students on campus, total) had some story of him being frightening, or behaving violently, or just erratically. But he was charming, everyone liked him, no-one wanted him to get into any trouble &c. So there were no "official records" of any incident involving him. Beyond the hospitalization to show I was anything but a hysterical girl who did not want her ex-boyfriend in class.

What these young women go through is horrible. Horrible. It's exponentially worse than what I went through. I wish I could support them in a meaningful way.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:35 AM on April 25 [37 favorites]


Note that "innocent until proven guilty" as defined by the 5th amendment is only the standard for criminal trials where life, liberty, or property are at stake. It's not the standard for civil actions. It doesn't apply to educational institutions, who can expel you for non-crimes like cheating, plagiarism, massaging your data, or having financial conflicts of interest.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:36 AM on April 25 [50 favorites]


He says there is a “general ignorance and hostility towards my gender identity … even [the] dismissal of my rape because it didn’t fit the normative ‘boy-rapes-girl’ narrative.”

Yup, and taking a look at Columbia's policy:

Sexual assault - non-consensual sexual intercourse. Any form of sexual intercourse (anal, oral, or vaginal), however slight, with any object without consent. Intercourse means: vaginal penetration (however slight) by a penis, object, tongue, or finger; anal penetration by a penis, object, tongue, or finger; and oral copulation (mouth to genital contact or genital to mouth contact).

Sexual assault - non-consensual sexual contact. Any intentional sexual touching, however slight, with any object without a person’s consent. Intentional sexual contact includes contact with the breasts, buttocks, groin, or touching another with any of these body parts, or making another person touch any of these body parts; any intentional bodily contact in a sexual manner.

Basically, if somebody touches your vagina = sexual intercourse; somebody touches your penis = sexual contact (and becomes, essentially, equivalent to groping). Two different classes of assault for what is essentially the same thing, based entirely on the form your genitals take.
posted by damayanti at 8:45 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Basically, if somebody touches your vagina = sexual intercourse; somebody touches your penis = sexual contact (and becomes, essentially, equivalent to groping). Two different classes of assault for what is essentially the same thing, based entirely on the form your genitals take.

I thought the difference between the two definitions was unwanted penetration of an orifice verses unwanted sexual touching of body parts without penetration, including parts not traditionally associated with sex. They seem subjective enough to apply to a wide array of penetrations and contacts, and nothing is assumed about the gender or sex of the perpetrator or victim. Are these really bad definitions? What's a good definition look like?
posted by jsturgill at 8:56 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Whether you're worried about the presumption of innocence or the lack of penalties for convicted assaulters, it seems like the natural solution is to get the actual justice system involved.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:57 AM on April 25 [8 favorites]


based entirely on the form your genitals take.

Do you know the difference between the vagina and the vulva?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:59 AM on April 25 [13 favorites]


Two of the key quotes for me:
Universities are required by Title IX to help students who report sexual misconduct feel safe from their alleged attackers, even before an investigation has been completed; students may request housing and class reassignments, for example....
One complainant who identifies as queer and sought help after an assault said that the rape crisis center “did not seem prepared to deal with a narrative of a woman assaulting another woman.” She says advisers failed to tell her about her options for switching housing and classes. Despite asking multiple administrators for help, she was unable to switch out of two classes she shared with her assailant for the duration of the semester.
Helping a student switch housing and classes seems like a fairly low bar for supporting survivors, and does absolutely nothing WRT the rights of the accused.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:01 AM on April 25 [10 favorites]


Do you know the difference between the vagina and the vulva?

Why yes, I do! But note the "however slight" in the definition. If you can touch the vulva without getting contact with something that might be considered the vagina, all the more power to you. However, odds are at least some non-consensual hand jobs involve penetration of the vagina under Columbia's definition there.

They seem subjective enough to apply to a wide array of penetrations and contacts, and nothing is assumed about the gender or sex of the perpetrator or victim

The definition is good in that oral sex is covered, and is the same severity for both people with penises and people with vaginas. But, if I'm a transgender women with a penis, and somebody manually stimulates me against my will, that falls under "non-consensual sexual contact" and is in the same category as somebody groping somebody else's breasts (both of which are bad, but I think most people can agree that unwanted groping of the genitals is worse). If I'm a ciswoman with a vagina, and somebody manually stimulates me against my will (assuming that either fingers clearly enter the vagina, or fall under that "however slight" category), that falls under "non-consensual sexual intercourse". The difference is problematic.
posted by damayanti at 9:02 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Damayanti, intercourse involved penetration, or oral sex/touching genutals with the mouth for anyone on the gender spectrum, so I read that as being gender neutral, though if some offender attempted to insert anything in a penis without effective consent, (I have little knowledge of catheters), you may have a point for an extremely rare situation.
posted by childofTethys at 9:04 AM on April 25


Sounds like they were found guilty most of the time but still allowed to stay in school.

At my alma mater, being found guilty (by the college, not in a court of law) of plagiarism could and would absolutely get you thrown out. But raping someone? You *might* get suspended. *Maybe* you'd have to change dorms (boo hoo).

Applications dropped a *lot* this year, and there's been a fair amount of discussion both on campus and on alumni pages on fb about how much terrible publicity the college has gotten over its inability to handle frats, alcohol, and rape. I've seen threads on forums like College Confidential where prospective students ask if it's safe to go to there. I can only hope that this is the kind of wake-up call the college needs, since it sure as fuck hasn't done anything about it in the 25 years since I graduated except wrings its administrative hands.
posted by rtha at 9:04 AM on April 25 [25 favorites]


Is the text of the complaint available online? I've spent quite a while searching and can't seem to find it.
posted by vapidave at 9:07 AM on April 25


Protesting the lack of institutional response to sexual assault was one of the defining political issues of my college years, over 25 years ago. The other defining issue was divestment from apartheid South Africa, to put that in some context. It is dismaying and angering that this is still such a problem. It's still a problem at my alma mater, in fact, and some of the alums who were involved in drawing attention to the problem and pushing the university to take better action and develop better policies have been stepping in again.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:09 AM on April 25 [10 favorites]


You may have a point for an extremely rare situation.

Yes, but one that's (perhaps) more likely to come up for queer students, which is one of the parts of the case being brought up.
posted by damayanti at 9:09 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


My first reaction is: this is decades overdue.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:10 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Something important to keep in mind is that in many cases, these accusers are not asking for the accused to be punished, per se. Instead, they are asking the schools to take action in order to protect their safety and their mental health. Housing issues are hugely, hugely common - this is what happened at Harvard. The accuser wasn't demanding that the accused go to jail, or be expelled. She wanted the college to move him into a different house, so she wouldn't have to see his face every morning in the dining hall.

Right now, because schools bring a criminal-case mentality to these situations, the attitude among the administration was that until the accused is found guilty by an administrative body, according to accepted standards of evidence, absolutely nothing can be done. If the accuser didn't want to live with the accused, she was the one who would have to switch houses. Any suggestion that he should be the one to move met with this bristling sense of injustice: how dare you consider violating the rights of the accused by punishing him without a fair trial?! What if she's lying?! What about presumption of innocence?!? I think even reasonable people feel a quiver of discomfort at the idea that someone could make an accusation, with no evidence backing it, and someone else would have to face consequences.

But there is another way of thinking about it. It doesn't have to be about punishment, or about "innocent until proven guilty." After all, if we can accept the fact that there are cases where there simply isn't enough evidence to know the truth one way or another, there are two possible "bad" outcomes... and either one or the other is going to happen.

1. The accused stays where he is, even though the accuser was telling the truth. As a result, a person who has been sexually assaulted is forced to see her attacker every day, possibly placing her at ongoing risk for another attack, as well as increasing her likelihood of depression, substance abuse, and suicide. If she wants to get away from her attacker, she has to switch houses, thereby leaving behind her support network (counselors, friends, etc.) at a moment when she was particularly vulnerable. She is at a very high risk of dropping out of school. An innocent person is who has suffered a terrible ordeal is implicitly branded as a liar. A rapist, meanwhile, faces no consequences.

2. The accused is forced to move, even though his accuser was lying. There is a significant degree of disruption and stress that follows this move; the accused loses access to his friends and support network. There may be some accompanying depression and anger. An innocent person is implicitly branded a rapist. A liar, meanwhile, faces no consequences.

It seems to me that the second outcome, while carrying some undeniable negative consequences that I don't want to dismiss, is clearly preferable to the first one. Yes, it is unfair to have to move houses based on a false allegation, but it is even more unfair, and harmful, to be forced to live side-by-side with your rapist. What often gets lost is that those two things go together; you cannot prevent one without running the risk of causing the other. We also live in a world in which it is fairly well-established that sexual assault is much more common than false accusation, so the odds are higher, in any given instance, that an accuser is telling the truth than not, although it may not be possible to know for sure in any particular case. The school could also do its best to mitigate the harm of the statement "an innocent person is implicitly branded a rapist", but stating categorically that, in cases like these, the accused will be required to move houses, prior of any determination of guilt. It is not a punishment; it is simply an attempt to mitigate harm.

And that, I think, should be the policy at all of these schools. Once a person makes an accusation, the accused is required to move. No, it may not be fair in all instances. No, it does not meet criminal standards of justice - but there are other standards, and this could go some way to fixing a long unredressed history of harm.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 9:17 AM on April 25 [19 favorites]


At my alma mater, being found guilty (by the college, not in a court of law) of plagiarism could and would absolutely get you thrown out. But raping someone? You *might* get suspended. *Maybe* you'd have to change dorms (boo hoo).

To follow up on my own thought: Plagiarism and pretty much every other form of academic dishonesty was treated (culturally, at least) as a deliberate choice that a student made. Sexual assault, on the other hand, was (is) viewed as a "mistake" or as something that "happens" and not as an act that someone commits. Poor judgement as a result of drunkenness that ends in sexual assault is something that victimizes even the perpetrator. Poor judgement that ends in academic dishonesty is viewed as a major character flaw that can most often only be "fixed" by removing that flaw from the student body via expulsion.
posted by rtha at 9:17 AM on April 25 [15 favorites]


Helping a student switch housing and classes seems like a fairly low bar for supporting survivors, and does absolutely nothing WRT the rights of the accused.

At least in the Harvard case linked above, the writer of the accusing letter wanted the University to change the accused-student's housing.

Her logic seemed to be that she had done nothing wrong - why should she have to move? Which is really a fair point, but does go against presumption of innocence.
posted by Dashy at 9:18 AM on April 25


the first line of the second paragraph is what gives rise to the false accusation concern. It is not a derail.

Yeah, it's present, it's ugly. I think the point is that everyone here knows that and rather than rehashing something that's been done to death, people who feel the need to comment on that aspect could maybe just post the URL of one of the many many prior discussions. There's new stuff here.

propensity to deal with cases quietly and internally

I recently started a new job in industry and went through the Resolving Workplace Issues course. Cheeky bastards had the gall to include "Contact the EEOC" (or OSHA depending) and "Retain a personal lawyer" in the answer lists for multiple choice questions and yet somehow they were never ever the right answer. It turns out that the HR department will handle all your needs.

The only reason universities get away with this crap is that their demographic is young, broke, and inexperienced. I'm not sure if this particular legal remedy is the right way to pursue things, but I think they're on the right track with a very public lawsuit.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:21 AM on April 25 [5 favorites]


I teach at a large state university with a student population of over 25,000, and every year it publishes an annual security report on campus crime and safety. The report issued this year lists over 400 disciplinary referrals made for violations of liquor laws and regulations, but a grand total of 2 for campus sexual assaults.

The degree to which campus rape goes unaddressed boggles the mind. Given this context, the extent to which this thread centers concerns about false accusations seems really misplaced.
posted by DrMew at 9:21 AM on April 25 [19 favorites]


Related: The Federal Department of Education has launched an investigation into FSU's handling of the Jameis Winston rape accusation under Title IX

"Sexual harassment and violence are considered forms of sex discrimination under the 1972 federal law, which requires colleges and universities that receive federal funds to investigate claims of sexual assault and provide a timely and impartial grievance procedure to resolve those claims. "
posted by dry white toast at 9:22 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Didn't something similar happen at Amherst?

The presumption of innocence is an especially hilarious standard considering that these are schools that will demand you leave campus if you have, say, mental health issues that they feel they can't adequately address. But being rapey is sacrosanct.

Maybe, maybe if being accused of rape is a big worry, men should really about only going out in groups, keeping an eye on their friends, and watching how much they drink.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:31 AM on April 25 [66 favorites]


I mean, let's just face it: the male entitlement to rape is a huge part of US college tradition, and is surely the appeal of college for a significant proportion of men. I guess it would be a bummer for a lot of these schools to have to change that longstanding tradition. See also: fraternities in general
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:32 AM on April 25


The degree to which campus rape goes unaddressed boggles the mind.

I agree, and I fear this lawsuit (and the whole discussion about sexual violence on college campuses, really) gets caught in the weeds.

I don't think many people would take such issue with accused rapists being allowed to remain on campus during investigations if those investigation weren't so routinely and so thoroughly slipshod. Just as the accused is entitled to due process, so is the victim entitled to have their assault properly investigated. Due process should work both ways.

Really, if you have any doubt whether rape culture exists, ask yourself this: Is there any other crime where the community and society so regularly and readily jumps to the banner of "presumption of innocence"? America has shown itself willing to throw that principle over the side for any number of crimes (violence, theft, drugs), yet people suddenly rush to the side of the accused when rape is involved.
posted by dry white toast at 9:34 AM on April 25 [12 favorites]


Ah, here's the link to the Amherst lawsuits.

Two former Amherst College students filed federal complaints against the prestigious private college this week, alleging that administrators trivialized their sexual assault reports and worked to isolate them both, even urging them to take a year off from school to recover from the trauma.

Maybe they should get due process before being sentenced to a serious trauma at a personally and professionally vital time in their lives.

The article notes that similar lawsuits were filed at Vanderbilt.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:36 AM on April 25 [3 favorites]


Is there any other crime where the community and society so regularly and readily jumps to the banner of "presumption of innocence"?

Domestic violence and child molestation. Funny how these attitudes protect men at the expense of women and children.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:37 AM on April 25 [27 favorites]


I know it's not specifically sexual assault, but I have a friend who found Columbia also had real problems with domestic violence issues. Abusers were unable to be barred from areas and no real help was given.
posted by corb at 9:40 AM on April 25 [2 favorites]


damayanti, I don't want to challenge you on this, so please don't take it that way. From my perspective, men, women, non-cis, and trans people all have external nerve clusters on/as part of their genitals that can be stimulated without penetration, allowing an experience anologous to a handjob. They also have orifices that can be penetrated sexually, and of course any part of the body can be touched in an unwanted and sexual manner. Penetration versus not penetration seems like a useful distinction to make, assuming situations are taken in context such that over-the-clothes unwanted boob grab (very bad!) is treated differently from hand-on-genitals unwanted stimulation (very badder!).

When I read the descriptions you quoted, I was impressed by the open language of them and their lack of presumption. If you could help me understand how better definitions would be worded, or perhaps why there shouldn't be distinctions between penetration and not-penetration, I'd appreciate the trouble on your part and enjoy having a more complete perspective.
posted by jsturgill at 9:40 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


At least in the passage I quoted from one of the articles, the accuser wished to change housing and classes prior to formal investigation, and met with academic roadblocks.

I'll provide my anecdata. When I was mis-diagnosed with cancer and told to get a major surgery that with a recovery time covering the second half of the semester, administration and instructors had no problems finding loopholes for me to squeeze through so I didn't get totally wiped out academically and financially.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:41 AM on April 25 [2 favorites]


how better definitions would be worded, or perhaps why there shouldn't be distinctions between penetration and not-penetration

Could maybe any really graphic dissection of the Columbia assault definitions move to MeMail? The lawsuits are about wide-ranging campus climate and policy issues, rather than hinging on a couple of paragraphs about penetration. It's an interesting discussion in its own right, but somewhat orthogonal to the articles in the FPP.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:45 AM on April 25


There's actually a relevant thing going down at Brown right now. More specifically, Brown tried an accused violent rapist, found him guilty, and suspended him for effectively one semester and a few weeks. Meanwhile, the victim suffered spinal injuries as a result of the forcible strangling, and was out on medical leave for several months of the attacker's suspension. So, seems like this might actually be a widespread thing across universities. Who, incidentally, tend to look to their peer institutions to determine appropriate puinishment.

(This can be compared to, say, the pieing of Thomas Friedman at Brown a few years back, whose perpetrator faced an expulsion hearing.)
posted by likeatoaster at 9:45 AM on April 25 [8 favorites]


Rape Happens HereFor 150 years, leafy, progressive Swarthmore College tried to resolve student conflicts in the best Quaker tradition — peacefully and constructively. Then came 91 complaints of sexual misconduct. In a single year.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:46 AM on April 25 [9 favorites]


As I see it, the problem now isn't that the rights of the accused are being favored over the rights of the victims, but that the process drags on for so long. One improvement that would protect everyone's rights would be to significantly speed up the investigation and prosecution of sexual assaults so that the period in which the accused-but-presumed-innocent person is still on campus with the victim is as short as possible.

Given that it should be physically possible to collect all the evidence and statements within a day or two, why can't there be a policy for these cases be fast-tracked by the university police and judicial process to be resolved within a week?
posted by Jacqueline at 9:59 AM on April 25


It seems to me that the second outcome, while carrying some undeniable negative consequences that I don't want to dismiss, is clearly preferable to the first one. Yes, it is unfair to have to move houses based on a false allegation, but it is even more unfair, and harmful, to be forced to live side-by-side with your rapist. What often gets lost is that those two things go together; you cannot prevent one without running the risk of causing the other. We also live in a world in which it is fairly well-established that sexual assault is much more common than false accusation, so the odds are higher, in any given instance, that an accuser is telling the truth than not, although it may not be possible to know for sure in any particular case. The school could also do its best to mitigate the harm of the statement "an innocent person is implicitly branded a rapist", but stating categorically that, in cases like these, the accused will be required to move houses, prior of any determination of guilt. It is not a punishment; it is simply an attempt to mitigate harm.

Nancy Grace: "Ahnd if he's nuht guilty WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYY did thuh school furce hum to chaaaaange houses? He's guilty, guilty, guilty and should be puht in jail".

That's why we can't have nice things. Because any action that an authority makes in mitigating anything in this situation will automatically draw inference.
posted by Talez at 10:03 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


More specifically, Brown tried an accused violent rapist, found him guilty, and suspended him for effectively one semester and a few weeks.

That case is really bizarre, because they handed down a punishment that should have been a one year suspension, but when he appealed it morphed into a semester suspension because he was allowed to stay on campus during the suspension. I understand the policy of allowing him to stay on campus pending appeal, but when you lose your appeal you don't get what's effectively credit for time served for time you haven't served. That's nonsense. It looks like they officially phrased the punishment as "Suspension until Fall 2014" which would explain how that could happen, but it still makes zero sense.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:04 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


It looks like they officially phrased the punishment as "Suspension until Fall 2014" which would explain how that could happen, but it still makes zero sense.

What makes zero sense is that a "convicted" rapist isn't convicted with a minimum of third degree sexual assault which would fetch up to five years in prison in Rhode Island.

At the minimum this boy needs a fuckload of therapy not just a minimal exclusion from the school.
posted by Talez at 10:07 AM on April 25


It looks like they officially phrased the punishment as "Suspension until Fall 2014" which would explain how that could happen, but it still makes zero sense.

It makes sense if you accept that allowing (often privileged) men to commit violent crimes against women with the minimum of consequences is the actual goal. These schools primarily function to reinforce existing privileges. Don't even ask me about the people I know who went to one of these schools, who have multiple male friends who were credibly accused of rape by female friends. They're still friends with the men involved because, well, his daddy has a big important job...

I wonder how many of these rapists had family donating a ton of money to the school. My alma mater had a male student walk up to a woman and punch her in the face, completely unprovoked, and nothing happened. Guess what: his last name was the same as the name on my freshman dorm. Surprise, surprise.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:10 AM on April 25 [3 favorites]


Nancy Grace: "Ahnd if he's nuht guilty WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYY did thuh school furce hum to chaaaaange houses? He's guilty, guilty, guilty and should be puht in jail".

That's why we can't have nice things. Because any action that an authority makes in mitigating anything in this situation will automatically draw inference.


I hope you're not seriously arguing that colleges shouldn't try to mitigate the situation because the super-genius behind #BreastMilkXRay, #SoundsOfDeath, and #StripperBill will get the pitchforks out
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:15 AM on April 25 [11 favorites]


Once a person makes an accusation, the accused is required to move. No, it may not be fair in all instances. No, it does not meet criminal standards of justice - but there are other standards, and this could go some way to fixing a long unredressed history of harm.

The unilateral right to expel another student from campus seems like an extraordinary amount of power to invest in young men and women.

Practically speaking, I can see how this might get out of hand. I can easily imagine a situation where a group of students with the belief in the presumption of innocence as a moral precept (not merely an artifact of criminal law) engage in direct action/civil disobedience by levying so many false allegations as to effectively expel the entire university community from campus.

(Though perhaps this concern could be mitigated if the punishment for falsely accusing another of sexual assault was sufficiently severe.)
posted by BobbyVan at 10:24 AM on April 25 [4 favorites]


Whether you're worried about the presumption of innocence or the lack of penalties for convicted assaulters, it seems like the natural solution is to get the actual justice system involved.

Yo And Imma Let You Finish™, but at a lot of universities that have their own police forces or are in small towns where the police force just defers the college and doesn't want to stand between the college and someone else(hey, i've posted about this before!) it's Not This Simple.

Basically, the cops will back off or help the school bury something or just drag their feet/do nothing if the school tells them that they're "conducting and investigation" or dealing with it. This applies like, double to triple if this happened in the dorms or campus housing or next to/on campus apartments or quads or whatever.

Fixing the systems at these schools is the way out of the woods on this. The cops have proven, as in many other situations, to be fucking useless and complicit in the problem... But the tail is wagging the dog here with relation to the schools and the cops.

And yea, i mean, if we're going to talk about people "not yet found guilty" how about all my friends who went to fancy Liberal Arts Hippie Progressive kind of colleges that were supposedly far left and forward looking in the most tumblry radical way on these sorts of policies... that after concluding a rape/assault/harassment DID occur let the other person stay anyways with the same old mealy mouthed "but we can't ruin their educationz!" kind of bullshit?

Because yea, that's happening. Separating the accused from the accuser is like, fucking futuristic single payer healthcare shit at this point. Even in the places that are supposed to be ahead of the curve even getting the agreed upon, proven, "convicted" by the school abuser/rapist/assaulter/whatever out of the place is generally off the table.

The unilateral right to expel another student from campus seems like an extraordinary amount of power to invest in young men and women.

Practically speaking, I can see how this might get out of hand. I can easily imagine a situation where a group of students with the belief in the presumption of innocence as a moral precept (not merely an artifact of criminal law) engage in direct action/civil disobedience by levying so many false allegations as to effectively expel the entire university community from campus.

(Though perhaps this concern could be mitigated if the punishment for falsely accusing another of sexual assault was sufficiently severe.)


Honestly i don't believe in punishment for the accuser if there's "not enough evidence". If you're going to hypothetical it up in here, what about a situation where say a frat brother is accused and all his friends who were there say it didn't happen that way? What about other witness stand packing retaliation on the legitimate accuser kind of stuff? Having any sort of potential backlash like this will force peoples hands on coming forward against someone popular who could likely repeatedly get away with things both because of that fear, and because even if someone did come forward they'd be ready to trash their accusation and reputation(and i mean, this is already a thing that happens, but still)

You have to assume that some low percentage of this will be abuse of the system, but as it is "letting 10 guilty men walk free so 1 innocent man isn't convicted" is a SHIT system for this kind of thing.

And i write this as someone who is long time friends, and former roommates with a guy who nearly didn't graduate because of a false accusation that was taken seriously.

There is obviously a middle ground between the two extremes here, where an intelligent functional system could be created that isn't some easily abused thing but also isn't the piece of shit way of dealing with it that exists now. I don't think that's too hard of a concept to grasp.
posted by emptythought at 10:34 AM on April 25 [2 favorites]


Though perhaps this concern could be mitigated if the punishment for falsely accusing another of sexual assault was sufficiently severe

Why are we still having a discussion over this when the complaints being made are about the fact that the punishment for accusing another of sexual assault, regardless of veracity, is the priority of the schools named?
posted by zombieflanders at 10:34 AM on April 25 [13 favorites]


Practically speaking, I can see how this might get out of hand. I can easily imagine a situation where a group of students with the belief in the presumption of innocence as a moral precept (not merely an artifact of criminal law) engage in direct action/civil disobedience by levying so many false allegations as to effectively expel the entire university community from campus.

Weird that on the other hand you can't imagine a situation where a group of students rapes their peers without consequence. Because practically speaking, that's what's happening, and as evidenced by the articles it's well beyond out of hand.
posted by one_bean at 10:38 AM on April 25 [39 favorites]


(Though perhaps this concern could be mitigated if the punishment for falsely accusing another of sexual assault was sufficiently severe.)

This is not a credible approach to dealing with rape allegations, if only because the downside (strongly discouraging people from bringing allegations of a crime that is already underreported) is so obvious. That this is the priority of people in the men's rights movement is one of the way you know that their actual goal is cowing women into not reporting rapes, rather than dealing with any of the actual issues.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:41 AM on April 25 [15 favorites]


Yo And Imma Let You Finish™, but at a lot of universities that have their own police forces or are in small towns where the police force just defers the college and doesn't want to stand between the college and someone else(hey, i've posted about this before!) it's Not This Simple.

IIRC when all-white juries didn't want to convict nice white folks for murdering the black guy that dared look at a fine, upstanding white woman, the feds got involved, tried them in real courts and secured convictions.

It was That Simple back then. Seems like it could be That Simple here if neither the college town police forces or universities want to take things seriously.
posted by Talez at 10:41 AM on April 25 [2 favorites]


The unilateral right to expel another student from campus seems like an extraordinary amount of power to invest in young men and women.

Practically speaking, I can see how this might get out of hand. I can easily imagine a situation where a group of students with the belief in the presumption of innocence as a moral precept (not merely an artifact of criminal law) engage in direct action/civil disobedience by levying so many false allegations as to effectively expel the entire university community from campus.


Hey dude, nice to hear from the alternate universe where "instantly expel the accused from campus housing" is a plausible policy change that could happen and should be feared. In this universe, colleges' default response to an accusation of sexual assault or rape is some combination of fuck-all and punishment of the accuser.

IIRC when all-white juries didn't want to convict nice white folks for murdering the black guy that dared look at a fine, upstanding white woman, the feds got involved, tried them in real courts and secured convictions.

So in your universe, the federal government instantly, reliably steps in to save black people from legal lynchings? Where's the portal you came through, I want out
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:45 AM on April 25 [9 favorites]


Two additional aspects of the case that are more interesting to me than dickering about the presumption of guilt.

When my employer did their annual ethics workshop a few months ago, one of the changes is that they beefed up their sexual harassment and assault policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity in response to what the facilitator described as a Department of Education mandate. So it's interesting to me that part of the complaint is that queer and transgender students are getting the short end of the stick in support and complaint procedures.

I suspect a fair part of this comes down to the differences between how mental and physical health issues are treated throughout our culture. A survivor coming forward with a slip from their doctor documenting PTSD or other significant mental health issues should get the course and housing transfers they need. This should happen regardless of whether a formal complaint is actually filed.

Again, the described party in the Dartmouth suit did not file a formal complaint and did not get requested accommodations. In that described case, it's not about holding the rapist accountable, it's about multiple failures in victim advocacy and support, possibly exacerbated by the fact that both victim and accused were queer.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:46 AM on April 25


So in your universe, the federal government instantly, reliably stepped in to save black people from legal lynchings? Where's the portal you came through, I want out

No. They stepped in after some time when there was an obvious problem. Like the situation we have now.
posted by Talez at 10:47 AM on April 25


You have to assume that some low percentage of this will be abuse of the system, but as it is "letting 10 guilty men walk free so 1 innocent man isn't convicted" is a SHIT system for this kind of thing.

This is clarifying. We'll just call the "low percentage" of innocents who are caught up in the system "collateral damage." Thank you.

Weird that on the other hand you can't imagine a situation where a group of students rapes their peers without consequence. Because practically speaking, that's what's happening, and as evidenced by the articles it's well beyond out of hand.

You have a remarkable ability to read minds. You'd be an excellent judge of innocence or guilt.
posted by BobbyVan at 10:48 AM on April 25 [4 favorites]


Boston College has banned from campus a student who is facing criminal assault charges (of a homeless man). Since it didn't happen on campus, the college's own system doesn't come into play at all, but the college did not let "but he hasn't been convicted yet!" keep it from deciding it was better for them if he's not allowed on campus while the criminal charges work their way through the system.
posted by rtha at 10:51 AM on April 25 [12 favorites]


IIRC when all-white juries didn't want to convict nice white folks for murdering the black guy that dared look at a fine, upstanding white woman, the feds got involved, tried them in real courts and secured convictions.

It was That Simple back then. Seems like it could be That Simple here if neither the college town police forces or universities want to take things seriously.


The issue is that this just hasn't been a high profile enough thing.

...And part of that issue is that it really seems like the majority of people either think rape is like, an Off The Table discussion that's not for polite company(and only happens in certain stereotypical ways like bla bla bla guy in a hoodie in an alley and you were too drunk anyways) and that the whole thing is just WAY freighted in a totally different way than that kind of thing was.

We're still way pre the goverment stepping in that situation era anyways, when stuff like steubenville gets totally waved along and the kids get minimum sentences. I mean groundswell of outrage about that kind of thing is what drove the government to act, but i really think there's a MUCH bigger drag on this getting enough attention and public condemnation to really solve the problem that way.

And there's also the bonus issue of the fact that it's the reputation of these Fine Schools that are backed by tons of money, and tons of rich fuckers who want to keep this stuff on the down low.

This is just a really, really tough situation.
posted by emptythought at 10:52 AM on April 25


If you like, you could frame the moving of a person accused of rape into another dorm (note that they still have access to classes, dining halls, etc.) as an act of protecting them too. If they have been one of the rare people who were falsely accused, it's best for them not to have continued contact with their accuser until the issue is resolved. You do not have to broadcast the reasons for their move to anyone whatsoever, anymore than you would a student moving for roommate conflicts or what have you. It will not destroy anyone's life to have to move to a different dorm, or off-campus, for a semester. Meanwhile, an actual criminal investigation should be taking place, not just some kind of pseudo-legal "inquiry."

As to "why move the accused rather than the accuser" well, the statistics we have indicate that false accusations are indeed rare. We should prioritize not further traumatizing a possible rape victim over inconveniencing a person accused of rape. To be falsely accused and then cleared of rape is no doubt traumatic. It's not as traumatic, or as likely, as actually being raped.
posted by emjaybee at 10:52 AM on April 25 [16 favorites]


This is clarifying. We'll just call the "low percentage" of innocents who are caught up in the system "collateral damage." Thank you.

We can call the current high percentage of innocents (aka sexual assault victims) who are caught up in the system "collateral damage" too.
posted by jeather at 10:53 AM on April 25 [26 favorites]


I was on the student judicial board at Dartmouth, and was and am extremely grateful that I never had to sit on a sexual assault case. One of the deans that ran the program was very competent and considerate, but several of the other administrators involved were dumb, lazy, and didn't really understand the rules they were charged with applying. I am proud, however, of the other students and faculty that made up the boards that heard each case. People took it very seriously and did their very best to come to arrive at the best outcome for the community.

However, we had a pretty tough time even with things like plagiarism and light assault (people pouring beers on each other). It wasn't CSI; pretty much all we ever had to go on were the words of the students involved in a situation, and sometimes a report from campus security which was in turn based on participants' and bystanders' testimony. I just don't feel like sexual assault is something that university judicial systems are equipped to handle.

I mean, even the criminal justice system, which has vastly more resources available to throw at these cases when they come up, does a terrible job most of the time. Dartmouth just had a case go through the criminal system where it seemed like the accused rapist may have committed the crime but was found not guilty due mostly to the defense casting doubt on the survivor's testimony.

Aside to other Dartmouth alums: Katie Wheeler '15 has been doing some great work in the D on the problems with campus culture. This piece is particularly good.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:55 AM on April 25 [5 favorites]


Boston College has banned from campus a student who is facing criminal assault charges (of a homeless man)...

A three-month grand jury investigation followed by criminal indictment is a slightly more rigorous process than j'accuse.
posted by BobbyVan at 10:59 AM on April 25


if the punishment for falsely accusing another of sexual assault was sufficiently severe.

Is it time for another round of "HAVE YOU CONSIDERED THE STATUS QUO AS A SOLUTION?" already?
posted by rmd1023 at 11:01 AM on April 25 [39 favorites]


I am a queer man and a Columbia alum who was raped by a woman when I was a student there. I also experienced a few other lesser incidents of sexual assault by both men and women. I think in many ways the sexual assault problems at Columbia are unique, in that it isn't the typical rape culture driven so much by men and power struggle (though of course that's part of it), as it is by the sort of miasma of privilege and living above the rules that hangs over the place. I'm no expert on the subject and this is just my sort of freewheeling impression based on my own experience.

It's easy to paint this Hollywood picture of clear corruption, where some rich white young man in a blazer rapes as he wishes and his Dad donates a bunch of money to the school and it's all brushed under the rug. But it's much more of a subtle, cultural, systemic problem than that; it isn't a culture created by the administration - it's a culture created by the students. While the administration can certainly do a better job of enforcing justice, the only real, lasting change has to come from the student culture. You've got this community of smart young people who are usually the type that have been able to float above the rules because of their talents and privilege living in the middle of the biggest city in the world and they are on a quest to push limits - sometimes in good ways and sometimes in bad. There is a lot of debauchery. There is a lot of sex, a ton of drugs, all the time and everywhere. There is a general disregard for the rules of society, because for most intents and purposes, the rules largely don't apply in that particular and strange environment. And that's really the rub. It's not all the administration. You can't easily legislate a shift in the rape culture of the smart, wealthy, young and fucked up. Living in this bubble of privilege can be really amazing, it can. But it spirals out of control easily, and the consequences are absorbed by victims without causing so much as a single ripple of reflection among the rest.

It isn't as if the administration doesn't try to influence the culture. There were more 'consent is sexy' type campaigns at Columbia than I've seen anywhere else. But the sort of trying-to-be-hip awareness campaigns are obviously not enough - and I think the best thing about this is that it's legal action driven by students. It's students standing up. That's what will change the culture and create lasting change.

Columbia is a place deeply, deeply rooted in tradition. Some good, some bad. You read the western cannon. You throw apples at graduation. The tradition of the place transcends the people who run the institution. But the place can have a bit of a history hangover, and part of that is its rape culture. But it is changing. The true stewards of Columbia, its students, those who have the most invested in its reputation and future, aren't standing for it. And while it's easy to use an event like this to disparage how bad things are, at a place so steeped in its own history like Columbia, its also clear how far things have come.
posted by The Pantless Wonder at 11:02 AM on April 25 [11 favorites]


BobbyVan: A three-month grand jury investigation followed by criminal indictment is a slightly more rigorous process than j'accuse.

And being required to "move houses" is a much less severe punishment than your straw man of being expelled from campus, but you seem to not be hung up as much on those details.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:05 AM on April 25 [4 favorites]


This is an issue I'm slightly informed about, and is a very complex, fraught issue. One thing that is very relevant, which I don't think is widely known and hasn't been mentioned thus far in this thread: guilt, in these cases on campuses, is done by a preponderance of evidence not beyond a reasonable doubt (and this is the legal bar which must be used). This means if there the bar for guilty/not guilty is 51%.

I understand this is an issue Metafilter likes to rally behind, but from talking to several people in the field who deal with this on a very regular basis the issue is more complex than just "good, this needs to happen".
posted by yeahwhatever at 11:07 AM on April 25 [3 favorites]


I'm not a lawyer, but how would securing a PPO work on campus? If you were granted one, wouldn't the school have to move the accused? Just curious as to whether people have tried this method.
posted by Kokopuff at 11:09 AM on April 25


tonycpsu: I'm just going off the information in the linked articles in the FPP, which say "The 100-page complaint alleges that the University allows accused perpetrators of sexual assault to remain on campus..."
posted by BobbyVan at 11:14 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


If you click through to the Columbia Spectator article on which the Time piece is based, it says "perpetrators are allowed to remain on campus" -- note the lack of the "accused" qualifier. My hunch is that Time added "accused" out of an abundance of caution, and would trust the original story rather than Time's summary thereof until we can judge by reading the complaint ourselves.

In any event, nobody in this thread is suggesting that we simply allow any student to expel any other student based simply on an accusation, so I think it'd be best for everyone if we stuck to the actual conversation instead of what may or may not be in the complaint.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:25 AM on April 25 [3 favorites]


When I was raped on campus twenty years ago, the response was to make me and the rapist apologize to each other for the mutual hurts we had caused (him for raping me, me for hurting his feelings by telling him he had raped me) and then throwing me out of school when my grades plummeted. That was twenty years ago, and it seems like things haven't budged a lot.
posted by KathrynT at 11:30 AM on April 25 [30 favorites]


A three-month grand jury investigation followed by criminal indictment is a slightly more rigorous process than j'accuse.

What with all the bitching about "innocent until proven guilty!" this issue excites, I just thought I'd point to a case in which someone accused but not (yet) convicted of a crime can still totally be kicked off campus, because that's what the administration wants. As far as I know, there is no nationwide law that requires universities to only ban students from campus if they have had the full weight of the legal system fall upon them. Universities make their own rules about this.

I can't help but think this was a gimme for the administration, since it happened off campus and the victim was not a fellow student.
posted by rtha at 11:35 AM on April 25


I understand this is an issue Metafilter likes to rally behind, but from talking to several people in the field who deal with this on a very regular basis the issue is more complex than just "good, this needs to happen."

This whole thing is going to be very uncomfortable for everyone involved, and particularly offensive to people who have put their professional lives into improving the system at their University.

Still, despite their best intentions the Universities have a repeated demonstrable inability to police themselves around this. Sorry guys, you had your shot. Time's up.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:36 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


"letting 10 guilty men walk free so 1 innocent man isn't convicted"

In most of America's judicial system, both happen. No, wait, make that 10 innocent men convicted. Of course, in rape matters, it's 1000 guilty men walk free.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:38 AM on April 25


This is an issue I'm slightly informed about, and is a very complex, fraught issue. One thing that is very relevant, which I don't think is widely known and hasn't been mentioned thus far in this thread: guilt, in these cases on campuses, is done by a preponderance of evidence not beyond a reasonable doubt (and this is the legal bar which must be used). This means if there the bar for guilty/not guilty is 51%.

Which is, again, why these quasi-judicial university bodies should not be adjudicating actual felonies. Plagiarism and other non-criminal ethics violations, sure. But sexual assault? I mean, if you had a student accused of holding up a convenience store there wouldn't be a push for the whole thing to be handled in-house with no penalty beyond suspension/expulsion. For that matter, I'm pretty sure that a student who accidentally killed a person wouldn't get this treatment – and manslaughter is, in theory, a lesser charge than rape.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:39 AM on April 25 [10 favorites]


Penetration versus not penetration seems like a useful distinction to make, assuming situations are taken in context such that over-the-clothes unwanted boob grab (very bad!) is treated differently from hand-on-genitals unwanted stimulation (very badder!).

I think we're in agreement here in that what I've been trying to point out is that the problem is that's not the distinction Columbia definition as written (which is penetration/oral sex vs. everything else, rather than say, genital contact vs. not).
posted by damayanti at 11:47 AM on April 25


The question of what level of administrative due process is necessary before moving a rapists away from their victims strikes me as a bit of a minor point to this lawsuit, which alleges that victims are not getting either that due process or requested support services. I think it's reasonable to debate that level of due process for the alleged abusers. It's not reasonable to me that a person suffering from PTSD can't volunteer to change their own housing and schedule.

Holy Zarquon: Which is, again, why these quasi-judicial university bodies should not be adjudicating actual felonies.

Employers and educational institutions are required to deal with sexual harassment including sexual assault. If the complaint involves a criminal offense, reporting should be mandatory, but the institution in question needs to make an independent decision about whether terminate employment/student status.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:00 PM on April 25 [6 favorites]


Which is, again, why these quasi-judicial university bodies should not be adjudicating actual felonies.

But you can't force people to file criminal charges with the police, either. Criminal acts occur on campus between students (and faculty and staff), and universities do need policies for how to deal with them. I mean, not even talking about something as severe as rape or murder - students commit acts of simple assault all the time, and may be willing to go before the college/university's standard's board where they would not to involve the whole criminal justice system. If Joe wants to accuse Stan of pouring beer on him and then shoving him during a game of pong, the administration needs rules and policies to deal with stuff like that, criminal though it may be.
posted by rtha at 12:14 PM on April 25 [4 favorites]


If Joe wants to accuse Stan of pouring beer on him and then shoving him during a game of pong, the administration needs rules and policies to deal with stuff like that, criminal though it may be.

Well sure, but the hypothetical situation you describe barely qualifies as a misdemeanor.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:34 PM on April 25


So, what, then? If the accusation rises to a sufficiently serious level, and the accuser can't or won't take it to the cops (have you seen small-town cops in university towns lately? because HA HA HA HA!), then the university would be better off with *no* policy for how to handle those matters internally?
posted by rtha at 12:37 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


I mean, it does seem weird that a university should have to deal with criminal matters internally, but they do, and so does every other employer in this country. But the worst they can do is fire/expel the accused. That's not nothing, but since they hardly ever seem to do it anyway....
posted by rtha at 12:48 PM on April 25


But the worst they can do is fire/expel the accused

There's always calling the police to arrest the alleged rapist. Of course, many colleges have their own apparently-for-real police forces, so they should be familiar with the whole "Turn around and place your hands behind your back, you are under arrest...." and then let the judge and jury sort it out.

The IDEA that an assault would be handled outside the criminal justice system is... just wrong.
posted by mikelieman at 1:03 PM on April 25 [5 favorites]


Criminal acts occur on campus between students (and faculty and staff), and universities do need policies for how to deal with them.

Policy: Dial 911.
posted by mikelieman at 1:05 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Some small town cops in university towns may be jokes, but in my experience, campus police are even bigger jokes. It might also be worth listening to those in this thread with experience sitting on campus disciplinary tribunals about their abilities to adjudicate serious crimes.

I guess my focus would be on strengthening cooperation/trust between university communities and the actual police. This analogy isn't perfect, but some of the things that police do to maintain a presence in high crime city neighborhoods (and developing relationships, goodwill and trust) might be helpful on college campuses.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:09 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


rtha: I mean, it does seem weird that a university should have to deal with criminal matters internally, but they do, and so does every other employer in this country.

It's not necessarily a criminal matter. Whether it is a criminal matter is decided by a prosecuting attorney. Whether it's a civil matter is decided by the victim when he or she files a lawsuit.

For the university, it's a matter of compliance with federal law, legal liability, and accreditation. Universities are required by law to prohibit sexual harassment (including assault), they are legally liable if they tolerate sexual harassment (Title IX and the Clery act), and accreditation may include practices and standards for dealing with sexual harassment.

For the student in question, it's a matter of compliance with the code of student ethics (or whatever it's called). The student knows that violation of that code could result in a range of sanctions including suspension, expulsion, not getting credit for coursework, or being denied on-campus housing. That students can be suspended or expelled when charged with a crime is an entirely separate issue from prosecution of the crime itself.

That's aside from the American with Disabilities Act complaint, which is getting almost no attention in this discussion.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:09 PM on April 25 [5 favorites]


The IDEA that an assault would be handled outside the criminal justice system is... just wrong.

I think pressuring to prosecute (a process that's generally outside of their hands even if they report) is often a bad thing. This problem exists on multiple levels:

1. student support
2. student ethics
3. criminal prosecution
4. institutional compliance.

Student ethics may suspend or expel students for things that are not necessarily crimes. Likewise, not all crimes should fall under the purview of student ethics. For example, a student who takes pre-trial diversion for a non-violent offense while on summer break.

If the rape happens on campus or between students, well, then it's a matter for all four levels.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:23 PM on April 25


I think pressuring to prosecute (a process that's generally outside of their hands even if they report) is often a bad thing

I think we need to stop thinking about the school as anyplace different than any random street. If you're mugged, you call a cop. Period. There's no hemming and hawing. Take it OUT of the schools hands. Teach girls, if you're assaulted, you call 911 and go to the hospital immediately.

How about we use the "pressure to prosecute" to offset the "pressure to rape". Hell, let's encourage girls to get firearms and practice standing their ground.

I have no sympathy for rapists.
posted by mikelieman at 1:26 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


> Policy: Dial 911.

Again, you cannot force the accuser to file charges, so this is not a policy. And a school is not just a school (and therefore subject to a whole lot of other laws and regulations, like Title IX), but is also an employer. The company you work for? Not required to call 911 if you go to HR with a complaint that Bob assaulted you after the last sales meeting. They can - and do - still have policies about how to internally handle your complaint about Bob. This may result in Bob's firing.

Hell, let's encourage girls to get firearms and practice standing their ground.

Gimme a fucking break, Rambo.
posted by rtha at 1:30 PM on April 25 [7 favorites]


Policy: Dial 911.

If I dial 911 on the campus phone sitting not half a foot in front of me, it's going to be automatically routed to campus police. Cell phones have a 50/50 shot of reaching campus police, the fire marshall told us last month, so even then odds aren't good.

Please understand that a 40,000 student campus (larger than some cities in this country) and a 4000 student campus (that's the size of many liberal arts colleges in the US) have to follow the same DoE regulations. One simple answer like 'call 911' is hilariously misunderstanding the complexity of the issue.

I agree with others above that universities need to have some policies regarding sexual assault by students (expulsion, suspension, whatever the policy might outline as appropriate while the case is ongoing) but I also think that in many cases the university should also be referring the accused to the normal judiciary process in the city or state relevant, for potential prosecution.

This is problematic in far too many cases (small towns where the college is the industry, states where rape evidence kits are lost or sit untested for years, campus police and city police would have to work together, etc.), but, speaking as a faculty member for a moment, most universities don't know shit about setting up judicial punishment appropriate for rape. And how could they know? It's not like this is covered in the typical PhD course load for the faculty members who will ultimately serve on these campus committees and there's only so much a one-hour training session can cover.

Ultimately, if there is a different campus judicial policy for rape than it is for murder, that's a problem.
posted by librarylis at 1:38 PM on April 25 [6 favorites]


Read the rapey emails of American University's secret frat.
posted by empath at 1:41 PM on April 25


Again, you cannot force the accuser to file charges, so this is not a policy.

You can require that the administration report charges to the police. As an internal policy or as a law.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:42 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


If I dial 911 on the campus phone sitting not half a foot in front of me, it's going to be automatically routed to campus police. Cell phones have a 50/50 shot of reaching campus police, the fire marshall told us last month, so even then odds aren't good.

Okay, that is extremely creepy. I have no point of reference for this as I went to school in the middle of a city of 10 million people, but I assume this is the norm for college towns? Is there any point during orientation where this information is made public? Or do you just call 911 one day and be surprised when the rent a cops show up?
posted by elizardbits at 1:51 PM on April 25 [4 favorites]


I think we need to stop thinking about the school as anyplace different than any random street.

A school IS legally and ethically different than any random street. The same way that my work place is legally and ethically different than any random street. CBrachyrhynchos has explained this two or three different ways already. The fact that we want to ignore this when it comes to incidents of serial rapists seems like a perfect depiction of rape culture.
posted by muddgirl at 1:52 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


elizardbits: Or do you just call 911 one day and be surprised when the rent a cops show up?

I can't speak to librarylis' situation, but at my alma mater, the campus cops are real sworn police officers. There's a separate police force for the town of State College, but on campus, you're dealing with University Park police. This became kind of relevant a couple of years ago when the campus cops didn't exactly pursue the Jerry Sandusky investigation with due diligence.

Still, even I'm surprised by the cell phone thing. I'm guessing it tries to use your phone's location and route you to the campus cops if it thinks you're on campus?
posted by tonycpsu at 1:59 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Which is, again, why these quasi-judicial university bodies should not be adjudicating actual felonies. Plagiarism and other non-criminal ethics violations, sure. But sexual assault? I mean, if you had a student accused of holding up a convenience store there wouldn't be a push for the whole thing to be handled in-house with no penalty beyond suspension/expulsion.

Right, exactly. Expelling someone is a serious punishment, and should not be done without a serious process. Rape is a serious crime, and should be punished seriously. Universities are utterly unqualified to be legal bodies, and for obvious reasons, the idea that someone could be expelled from school / fired from work with no defense process is unacceptable, as is the idea that someone could commit a crime and suffer no punishment because it's beyond the abilities of the tinpot legal system the university has. Universities, like employers, should not be in the business of doling out punishment for criminal acts.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:04 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


Teach girls, if you're assaulted, you call 911 and go to the hospital immediately.

And... then what? After being sexually assaulted, you very well may get lectured by the police for your own behavior? And you're saying sexual assault victims (not all of whom are female, by the way) should be mandated to get rape kits and be physically vulnerable to strangers right after having been sexually assaulted? And, in your presumption that all reported rapes somehow actually get prosecuted, then you're mandating that sexual assault victims must all face their attackers again, and be questioned in public about their behavior?

This sounds like a humane policy to you, and one that solves all the problems listed in the complaints?
posted by jaguar at 2:04 PM on April 25 [4 favorites]


Schools are required by federal law to have a policy regarding sexual harassment including sexual assault. (Title IX and the Clery Act). Employers are required by federal law to have similar policies (I believe Title VII).

"Call 911" doesn't say anything about whether the person involved is still allowed on your property.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:05 PM on April 25


All that to say: As rtha is saying, colleges and universities need to have policies and procedures in place to support victims of sexual assault even if the crime is not reported and even if the perpetrator is not found guilty in a court of law.
posted by jaguar at 2:06 PM on April 25 [10 favorites]


Yeah, sworn officers of the law or not, company police are company police and at the end of the day we all know they are sworn to protect and serve the business which pays them and not the actual employees of the company.

Not that the actual town/village/city/staties have a much better track record wrt sexual assault cases, though.
posted by elizardbits at 2:08 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


Yes, but at the same time the default should not be to use those policies and procedures instead of the actual legal system. If the worst penalty a rapist can face is that he loses a semester's tuition and has to move back in with his parents, the system is fucked.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:09 PM on April 25


> at my alma mater, the campus cops are real sworn police officers.

University of Georgia police are not rent-a-cops by any remote stretch. They work for a normal Georgia police precinct that just happens to be the size and shape of the UGa campus. But if a UGa cop in a UGa-marked police cruiser happens to be off campus for some reason and the cop spots your car weaving in its lane, he/she certainly has the usual power (and duty) to pull you over and administer a breathalyzer test on the spot. And arrest you and transport you to the Clarke County jail (UGa doesn't have a jail of its own) if you blow over the limit.
posted by jfuller at 2:12 PM on April 25


Yes, but at the same time the default should not be to use those policies and procedures instead of the actual legal system.

It doesn't have to be an either/or (which is I think what you're saying, too). Colleges should absolutely not discourage students from reporting to outside law enforcement. Colleges should, however, also have procedures in place for students who don't want to report to outside law enforcement.

RAINN says that in the US, 60% of all rapes go unreported, 10% of all rapes lead to an arrest, 8% lead to prosecution, and 3% lead to any jail time at all. Policies about sexual assault need to take into account the very real problem of how fucked the law enforcement process is as well as how reluctant victims are to report. Any policies that require a conviction, or a formal LE report, are bad policies.
posted by jaguar at 2:13 PM on April 25 [5 favorites]


And before I get quoted out of context, "Any policies that require a conviction, or a formal LE report, are bad policies" should have been "Any policies intended to uphold victims' rights and conform to Title IX regulations, which are the subject of this thread, that require a conviction, or a formal LE report, are bad policies."
posted by jaguar at 2:15 PM on April 25


Expelling someone is a serious punishment, and should not be done without a serious process.

The "serious process" for expelling someone for academic honesty violations generally involves a committee of students and staff/faculty and not the law.
posted by rtha at 2:15 PM on April 25 [4 favorites]


Okay, that is extremely creepy. I have no point of reference for this as I went to school in the middle of a city of 10 million people, but I assume this is the norm for college towns?

Sorry for not being clear! I am in the middle of a city of six million people so definitely this is not a small college town. We have a campus police force and a campus public safety force and the two are separate; only campus police carry guns and are sworn police officers. To broaden things out for a moment, it's incredibly common (as others have commented above) to have full formal police units on campuses large enough to merit them. Small liberal arts colleges (like my undergrad) usually just have campus safety, which handles underage drinking and pot smoking and refers everything else to city police.

The problem arises less so in the police portion of the process (they are just as shitty as regular police on matters like rape and sexual assault) but rather the judicial phases where punishment is meted out. Suspension from campus for a semester due to a felony? That should be considered laughably far from sufficient punishment but at the moment is reality. The truth is, you're asking some severely undertrained people who are usually faculty, staff, and fellow students to make these decisions that have massive, disproportionate effects on people's lives. My hope is that these lawsuits start to shed some light on alternatives to the current situation.
posted by librarylis at 2:23 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


It is not unreasonable for someone credibly accused of rape to have to change his dorm or extracurriculars if the accuser requests this relief. Analogizing from our criminal justice system, we have robust systems of pre-trial detention, restraining orders, bail conditions, and the like, all of which wrongfully (in an ultimate sense) penalize someone who was falsely accused, or unprovably accused, but nevertheless necessary for good order.

It's not unreasonable for someone who has filed a rape complaint to receive mental health services, and frankly the merits of the complaint don't matter here: you probably need as much help if the conduct didn't amount to rape as if it did.

I am frankly far more bothered by the Education Department's campaign to transform disciplinary panels into hanging judges. Insisting upon moving to a preponderance of the evidence standard when colleges were employing "clear and convincing", insisting that charges which police and criminal prosecutors have rejected after investigation nevertheless be pursued by student conduct panels -- these are all things that should give everyone hesitation. I also think that they could very easily end up hurting more women if that lower evidentiary standard is applied to counterclaims of false charges, especially given that most of these cases often end up as disputes over consent and intent when either or both party was intoxicated.

Ultimately, I'd like to the law changed such that universities are divested of the authority over accusations of felonies. Women whose complaints are supported by the preponderance of evidence but not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt would still be able to sue for assault and recover significant damages and obtain restraining orders and other equitable relief, probably better than what a college could do in any event.
posted by MattD at 2:25 PM on April 25 [4 favorites]


The issue is that college administrators and especially student "judicial boards" are woefully unequipped to deal with things like this that have real legal consequences. Accusations of rape and harassment are difficult enough for real professionals with access to all the tools of modern technology and a thorough knowledge of the law to successfully prosecute in the judicial system. A bunch of students adjudicating a "he said, she said" situation without access to any evidence that would have meaning in a court of law, or an administrator moving an accused student out of his student housing and/or class structure, is practically asking for a shitstorm of lawsuits.

Let's say you have a student who is moved to another dormitory on the basis of an accusation of sexual assault. This seems like a good idea, right? Except that this is perceived by most of the student body and faculty as an indication that he's guilty. Maybe his grades suffer. Maybe he transfers to a less prestigious school. Maybe this follows him around for decades because of the internet. Pile on even more if he was suspended or expelled by some student/faculty judicial board, especially if they can be shown to have made determinations that were not within the law. Well, this person can turn around at some later date and sue the pants off the school for pain and suffering, negatively impacting his future earnings, etc. And let me tell you something: people who bring lawsuits like these against colleges win pretty much every time, and they win big. Even in cases where it's clear that the student did the accused act (let's say he was caught red-handed urinating into the department's administrative files) they still sometimes win big because they can always say, "you should have had me arrested and taken it to the courts."

This is among the many reasons that colleges are, and will continue to be extremely reluctant to act in any way that can be perceived as "disciplining" a student for anything other than academic reasons (plenty of them barely touch the academic stuff too, but at least the accused can't say "you should have had me arrested and prosecuted for bringing crib notes into that exam").
posted by slkinsey at 2:27 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


It doesn't have to be an either/or (which is I think what you're saying, too).

Yeah, I agree that there should be policies. I just think it's a mistake to take a procedure where faculty, administrators and students hash out the penalties for non-criminal ethics violations, and (a) have them wade into violent felonies, much less (b) trying to sweep incidents under the rug by handling said felonies entirely in-house, without involving the criminal justice system at all. These panels are out of their depth dealing with sexual assault in any capacity, much less being the first/only recourse for the victims.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:27 PM on April 25


Sorry for not being clear! I am in the middle of a city of six million people so definitely this is not a small college town. We have a campus police force and a campus public safety force and the two are separate; only campus police carry guns and are sworn police officers. To broaden things out for a moment, it's incredibly common (as others have commented above) to have full formal police units on campuses large enough to merit them. Small liberal arts colleges (like my undergrad) usually just have campus safety, which handles underage drinking and pot smoking and refers everything else to city police.

No, I get the whole deal of the campus police and whatnot, I'm just super horrified that a 911 call would go directly to them instead of to (in my mind what are classified as) real police. It makes me want to dial 911 in the middle of Washington Square Park and see who shows up.
posted by elizardbits at 2:28 PM on April 25


A stalker shot at me in my dorm room on campus. I called 911 and was routed to the on campus police. He was made to leave campus, but was not expelled. Nor did he serve any time (trust me when I say that the details I'm leaving out make this an unbelievable statement). They're not AT ALL the equivalent of real cops, even if they're sworn members of the force. They're company police that want to sweep things under the rug the best they're able.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:29 PM on April 25 [7 favorites]


Still, even I'm surprised by the cell phone thing. I'm guessing it tries to use your phone's location and route you to the campus cops if it thinks you're on campus?

Cell phone routing is probably continuing to improve, but when I was in grad school it was important to have the direct number for the campus police (who as mentioned above were real police, with guns and exactly the same training and powers as nearby jurisdictions) stored in your phone because 911 from a cell phone would usually route two or three townships over, and you'd get some confused small town dispatcher instead of someone who knew what "I'm in the north basement of East Olin Hall, but on the new side, not the old, near the staircase that used to be red" meant and could get the EMTs or police there instantly.

"Any policies intended to uphold victims' rights and conform to Title IX regulations, which are the subject of this thread, that require a conviction, or a formal LE report, are bad policies."

I couldn't agree more, and the people arguing otherwise are misconstruing the responsibilities of universities in this situation. A policy of "just call 911" would expose a school to lawsuits, rather than protect it, because the responsibilities are much broader.

I wish I better understood how ADA plays into this. That's another large and very complex set of regulatory requirements that schools already are supposed to be spending a lot of effort and resources complying with, so the intersection of the two over sexual assault and harassment is potentially a big deal.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:30 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Let's say you have a student who is moved to another dormitory on the basis of an accusation of sexual assault. This seems like a good idea, right? Except that this is perceived by most of the student body and faculty as an indication that he's guilty.

Why would that have to be the case? It doesn't have to be disclosed to anyone why the student is moving dorms. There's no reason to suspect that it results in any of your knock-ons. Relocation is a thing that happens regularly on campuses. If the accused chooses to make public the reason he's being asked to move, that's on him.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:33 PM on April 25


Still, even I'm surprised by the cell phone thing. I'm guessing it tries to use your phone's location and route you to the campus cops if it thinks you're on campus?

Meant to address this above. Yes, depending on which cell tower your phone bounces signal from, you may get routed to campus dispatch. It's a good choice for most cases on this very urban campus (most of which are armed or unarmed robbery) because response is significantly faster than regular police (campus is in a 'bad' area with a high crime rate). This is true at some, no idea how many, large university campuses.

However, it's not optimal for things like rape which require specially trained cops and evidence kits, etc. so I'm not sure whether campus police take those reports or shuffle them to city police.

As for the efficacy of campus police, I'll leave that to others who have had experiences with them. I did want to outline the procedures in place that make 'just dial 911' a hugely oversimplified statement.
posted by librarylis at 2:37 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


>> Let's say you have a student who is moved to another dormitory on the basis of an accusation of sexual assault. This seems like a good idea, right? Except that this is perceived by most of the student body and faculty as an indication that he's guilty.

Why would that have to be the case? It doesn't have to be disclosed to anyone why the student is moving dorms. There's no reason to suspect that it results in any of your knock-ons. Relocation is a thing that happens regularly on campuses. If the accused chooses to make public the reason he's being asked to move, that's on him.


It's usually more a matter of of the accuser (and/or accuser's friends and associates) making it known. I suppose it's possible an accuser would communicate only with a member of the school administration and no one else on the campus, but this doesn't seem particularly realistic. Meanwhile, student bodies are really good at the rapid dissemination of stuff like this.
posted by slkinsey at 2:39 PM on April 25


Let's say you have a student who is moved to another dormitory on the basis of an accusation of sexual assault. This seems like a good idea, right? Except that this is perceived by most of the student body and faculty as an indication that he's guilty.

Yet again, why so much more concern for the accused? The fantastic article linked about about Swarthmore (which is good enough to deserve its own FPP) mentioned that there have already been a number of Title IX lawsuits from people accused of assault who felt that their rights were violated -- the same mechanism that is allowing these initial lawsuits will allow further lawsuits. The accused's rights are not in jeopardy, and the repeated excessive concern for them in a thread about rape and sexual violence is distasteful.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:40 PM on April 25 [9 favorites]


It's not a matter of who is concerned for whom. From the college's standpoint it's about opening themselves up to lawsuits, and acting against accused parties based on what may seem like thin evidence and justification in a court of law can expose them to significant liability.
posted by slkinsey at 2:46 PM on April 25


If the worst penalty a rapist can face is that he loses a semester's tuition and has to move back in with his parents, the system is fucked.

I would have wept with joy if this was an even an option on the table for my rapist.
posted by KathrynT at 2:47 PM on April 25 [6 favorites]


It's usually more a matter of of the accuser (and/or accuser's friends and associates) making it known.

I'm sorry, what? The accuser (the person claiming to have been raped) is now presumed to be a gossip? Do you think that people wander around casually discussing their experiences having been raped? And if you think that, how would moving the accused person to a different dorm somehow unleash the tide of gossip, when keeping that person in the same dorm would not? "There might be gossip" is an extremely weak justification for not doing the decent thing.

Not buying it. There are tons of reasons for moving dorms.
posted by ambrosia at 2:47 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


From the college's standpoint it's about opening themselves up to lawsuits, and acting against accused parties based on what may seem like thin evidence and justification in a court of law can expose them to significant liability.

Acting "against" them by... providing other, equally appropriate campus-sponsored housing?
posted by jaguar at 2:49 PM on April 25


ThatFuzzyBastard: Universities, like employers, should not be in the business of doling out punishment for criminal acts.

My employer (which also happens to be a college) is in the business of doling out punishment for criminal acts. If I'm indicted, I get fired. If my face appears in the paper. I get fired. Those actions happen independently of whether my case goes through the legal system.

Holy Zarquon: Yes, but at the same time the default should not be to use those policies and procedures instead of the actual legal system.

Well now, that depends. If the issue at hand is whether Ms. Student (as described in the linked article) should get the necessary paperwork and loopholes to voluntarily change courses and residential housing, along with access to confidential individual or group counseling through university counseling services, even if she declines to prosecute because she doesn't want to face the soul-crushing complexities of prosecuting a case of intimate rape as a queer woman. Then yes, those policies and procedures should exist and be available regardless of whether any charges are actually filed.

If the issue at hand is whether universities can terminate or expel in cases of substantiated sexual misconduct that the legal system considers bad candidates for prosecution, or whether universities can terminate, expel, or suspend in cases of substantiated sexual misconduct for pending cases because the backlog on rape kits might be months or years, I think they can.

Universities can't punt on the issues either. Students WILL commit crimes. Universities MUST make decisions about whether those students are still entitled to an education and live on campus. I'm not certain that the standard here is much different than for underage drinking, a crime where universities are ridiculously puritan. It's really simple:

Is there reasonable evidence or testimony that the student in question violated the code of ethics? Y/N

If the university can make this decision WRT cheating or ridiculously puritan ideals about underage drinking, it can make it regarding sexual harassment and assault.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:52 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


So, punishment for rape, if you are enrolled in a university (and smart enough to commit rape at the university and attack a student) is... Being suspended, possibly expelled??

Because in the 'real world', if you attack and rape a coworker (unless, perhaps, you work at a university, I don't know how that would play out), you would be... Arrested... and then tried... and then potentially face years and years in prison. You would *not* get a meeting with your boss discussing and the victim trying to 'work things out'.

Ultimately, I'd like to the law changed such that universities are divested of the authority over accusations of felonies. . Yes, this. They shouldn't have more authority than to issue citations. I'm actually really confused about this. If they are 'real cops', how do they get to choose to not actually file a real police report when a sexual assault is committed? How do these cases avoid criminal prosecution if they are real cops? Is rape *EVER* criminally prosecuted on campus? If not, why don't rapists go to universities to commit rape (or are only enrolled students protected from the legal ramifications of rape?).

The rights of the accused are sacrosanct, however... Here the accused aren't actually being accused in a criminal court (despite being accused of a violent crime) and will fully escape the legal ramifications of their actions... I'm all for affording them their full rights - inside the actual legal system, not the you-can-rape-anyone-you-want university system.

Oh, on a side note... I assume if a rapist were to rape an administrator or professor that they would be subject to *actual criminal ramifications* and not some student hearing... Feel free to correct me. If this assumption is true, I wonder how anyone involved in these travesties of justice can sleep at night.
posted by el io at 2:52 PM on April 25 [3 favorites]


If they are 'real cops', how do they get to choose to not actually file a real police report when a sexual assault is committed?

The same way other real cops do. They just . . . don't do it.

How do these cases avoid criminal prosecution if they are real cops?

They pick apart the victim when they go to report, questioning if they were drinking, how they were dressed, if they maybe led the rapist on, if maybe this was something they wanted and just regretted in the morning, if maybe the rapist is a good guy who just got the wrong idea. Maybe they make jokes about the victim to each other while the victim is in the room. Maybe they make the victim strip naked and, when they don't see deep bruising, say "well you can't have been THAT upset about it." Regardless, at the end of the "report," which can often feel much more like an interrogation, they probably say "well there's just not a lot to go on here, I really don't think there's any point pressing charges." Then they tell you how severe the penalties are for filing a false report and ruining a good guy's life.

(or are only enrolled students protected from the legal ramifications of rape?)

Pretty much, in my experience. Well, enrolled students and professors, and students / professors at other schools. But yeah, not townies.
posted by KathrynT at 3:02 PM on April 25 [9 favorites]


Because in the 'real world', if you attack and rape a coworker (unless, perhaps, you work at a university, I don't know how that would play out), you would be... Arrested... and then tried... and then potentially face years and years in prison. You would *not* get a meeting with your boss discussing and the victim trying to 'work things out'.

Actually, the morning after I posted bail, I probably would be asked to report directly to Human Resources, where I would be asked to hand over my ID and all of my keys. After which, I might be escorted by security to my desk to clean it out. I probably wouldn't get even that.

Which is, (to explain it simply since most people here are being remarkably thick) a policy. Similarly, the procedures for suspending or expelling students who committed crimes is a policy. The argument that my employer can have a policy for terminating my employment but a university can't have a policy for suspending or expelling students accused of a felony doesn't make a great deal of sense.

Universities do not prosecute felonies.

What they can do is say:

* You are not a student.
* You do not get credit for the current semester.
* If you set foot on campus you will be arrested for trespassing.
* You have a few days to vacate any housing owned by us.

This is in addition to any charges pending in front of the local criminal system.

Now on a typical campus, students will get a hearing. As a college employee, I just get a call in the morning and an order to report to Human Resources. Students accused of rape have better due process than I do as an employee accused of any crime.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:10 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


The argument that my employer can have a policy for terminating my employment but a university can't have a policy for suspending or expelling students accused of a felony doesn't make a great deal of sense.

Your workplace does not employ the local police force. It does not have a policy of using its internal dispute resolution framework to handle violent felonies as an alternative to, rather than in addition to, the criminal justice system, nor does it have broad discretion to do so by virtue of literally owning the police.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:14 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


It does not have a policy of using its internal dispute resolution framework to handle violent felonies as an alternative to, rather than in addition to, the criminal justice system.

The Department of Education lays out how institutions of higher learning handle potentially criminal accusations. You don't have to like it, but it's the actual law. They are required to have these policies in place.
posted by rtha at 3:17 PM on April 25


I AM NOT SAYING THEY SHOULDN'T HAVE ANY WAY TO RESPOND TO SEXUAL ASSAULTS. THAT IS NOT A THING I AM SAYING.

1) IT SHOULD NOT BE THE SAME WAY THEY RESPOND TO PLAGIARISM AND BEER PONG FIGHTS. THERE IS A PROFOUND DIFFERENCE.

2) THERE SHOULD BE MANDATORY REPORTING TO THE ACTUAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM BECAUSE OF A SYSTEMIC BIAS TOWARD SWEEPING ACCUSATIONS UNDER THE RUG.

Thus endeth the FilmCritHulk impression.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:22 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


Take it up with the DoE and stop screaming at us here, like we're the ones who are all "wow system as it is is awesome let's totally stick with it!"
posted by rtha at 3:26 PM on April 25


I'm sorry, what? The accuser (the person claiming to have been raped) is now presumed to be a gossip? Do you think that people wander around casually discussing their experiences having been raped? And if you think that, how would moving the accused person to a different dorm somehow unleash the tide of gossip, when keeping that person in the same dorm would not? "There might be gossip" is an extremely weak justification for not doing the decent thing.

"There might be gossip" is a mischaracterization of the point I was making. Nor was I saying that the accuser is presumed to be a gossip. I agree that moving the accused can be reasonable and good. I'm just explaining that colleges are reluctant to act in many situations because of the concern of exposure to lawsuits, all the more so if there are procedures to adjudicate the situation through the criminal justice system. To make an example, a college would have little problem with a policy that said you have to change dorms and classes because someone got a restraining order against you, or you are suspended because you have been indicted for sexual assault. But a policy or administrative action that confers potentially damaging consequences upon one person as a result of unsubstantiated accusations from another person is a liability concern.
posted by slkinsey at 3:31 PM on April 25


THERE SHOULD BE MANDATORY REPORTING TO THE ACTUAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM BECAUSE OF A SYSTEMIC BIAS TOWARD SWEEPING ACCUSATIONS UNDER THE RUG.

What if victims don't want to report or pursue prosecution?

The Clery Act, already in place, already does require colleges and universities to report all incidences of sexual assault gathered from campus police or security, local law enforcement and other school officials who have "significant responsibility for student and campus activities.”

And the workplace analogies are odd. If a co-worker punches me and I decide not to pursue calling the police, it's not like it's illegal for me to not report it and yet still ask management to move his office so it's not next to mine.
posted by jaguar at 3:33 PM on April 25


But a policy or administrative action that confers potentially damaging consequences upon one person as a result of unsubstantiated accusations from another person is a liability concern.

And giving a potentially dangerous person unrestricted access to someone who is on file as saying he's vicitimized her should be an even bigger liability concern, and yet somehow no one's holding that up as a major motivator.
posted by jaguar at 3:35 PM on April 25 [9 favorites]


So, let's say I'm a landlord. I own an apartment building, and my tenant in 3A comes to me and says, "Hey, the guy in 3B raped me last night."

Do I have the right or obligation to immediately (like, same day even) evict 3B?
posted by Hatashran at 3:39 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Similarly, the procedures for suspending or expelling students who committed crimes is a policy

But the definition of "committed crimes" is the whole issue. The Columbia students are asking the university to take action against a student when it is still unproven whether they have committed crimes. Obviously, if a student is proven guilty and sent to jail, they can and should be expelled. The question is what is the procedure for a student who is accused of committing a crime.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:42 PM on April 25


And the workplace analogies are odd. If a co-worker punches me and I decide not to pursue calling the police, it's not like it's illegal for me to not report it and yet still ask management to move his office so it's not next to mine.

No, it's not illegal at all. But management can decide not to do that, especially if no one saw the coworker punch you, and can either say that no one is moving offices or that if you don't want to be next to that coworker you have to be the one who moves.


And giving a potentially dangerous person unrestricted access to someone who is on file as saying he's vicitimized her should be an even bigger liability concern, and yet somehow no one's holding that up as a major motivator.

From a liability standpoint the easy solution (I'm not saying the fair solution!) is to limit that access by changing things for the accuser.
posted by slkinsey at 3:42 PM on April 25


And giving a potentially dangerous person unrestricted access to someone who is on file as saying he's vicitimized her should be an even bigger liability concern, and yet somehow no one's holding that up as a major motivator.

And that, my friends, is what we call rape culture. Let's worry about those gossipy women ruining lives and definitely for sure not worry about those rapists ruining lives.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:43 PM on April 25 [9 favorites]


Do I have the right or obligation to immediately (like, same day even) evict 3B?

Again - colleges and universities have special laws that are not the same as those that would apply in off-campus situations. This is a derail and not remotely connected to the cases that are being brought.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:44 PM on April 25


"Obviously, if a student is proven guilty of plagiarism or cheating, and sent to jail, they can and should be expelled."

Colleges and universities have policies that they can sanction students for violating, even when those violations are not actually matters of criminal law, and those sanctions include suspension and expulsion. Are you arguing that students accused of criminal acts should *not* be subject to sanction by their college if they've also violated college rules, but students who cheat (and can't be charged criminally) can and should be?
posted by rtha at 3:52 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


concern for calls for due process to be thrown out the windows?

How is moving an accused rapist across campus to a different dorm while the incident is investigated more of a blow to due process than imprisoning an accused rapist while they await trial?
posted by KathrynT at 4:03 PM on April 25 [10 favorites]


Due process was already thrown out the window, and we know this because the colleges and universities that are under investigation are being investigated for not following their own policies nor those required by law. Those of us showing concern for those who have been assaulted and raped are concerned about due process.
posted by rtha at 4:04 PM on April 25 [8 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Touchy subject already folks, can we maybe not attribute the worst possible motives to each other in the discussion?]
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:06 PM on April 25


[One comment deleted. Touchy subject already folks, can we maybe not attribute the worst possible motives to each other in the discussion?]

That's funny because every reaction to anything that's not "string suspected rapists up by the balls" has so far been an implicit "WHY DO YOU LET FRAT BOYS RAPE WOMEN?" when nobody, NOBODY here thinks that should be a thing.
posted by Talez at 4:07 PM on April 25


[Again, I'm suggesting people not attribute the worst motives to other people in the discussion, that goes for all sides. Hyperbolic descriptions of other people's positions is not the most helpful. Asking everybody, let's keep it cool in here. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:21 PM on April 25


HZSF: It does not have a policy of using its internal dispute resolution framework to handle violent felonies as an alternative to, rather than in addition to, the criminal justice system, nor does it have broad discretion to do so by virtue of literally owning the police.

If it proves to be the case that Columbia as a matter of policy or practice is using the student judicial system in this manner, then they're in violation of federal law (Title IX and the Clery Act). I strongly suspect that Columbia is discouraging reporting as a matter of incompetence in practice rather than by policy. Never mind that we're still not talking about the ADA complaint.

WRT whether universities should handle sexual assault differently, so far no proposals have been made in that direction. The only proposals I see on the table is that they shouldn't make disciplinary decisions WRT sexual assault cases at all. And again, they already do and must make decisions about sex ranging from the skeevy but legal quid pro quo and conflict of interest, to illegal rape.

Hatrashan: Do I have the right or obligation to immediately (like, same day even) evict 3B?

As far as I know, housing law is an entirely different fish. Educational institutions and employers are required to have policies about sexual harassment (including sexual assault) as a matter of federal law.

ThatFuzzyBastard: But the definition of "committed crimes" is the whole issue. The Columbia students are asking the university to take action against a student when it is still unproven whether they have committed crimes. Obviously, if a student is proven guilty and sent to jail, they can and should be expelled. The question is what is the procedure for a student who is accused of committing a crime.

You cherrypicked that sentence from a discussion about what would happen if we were arrested. My point was that the due process for students who are arrested and charged is considerably more lenient than I'd get as an employee.

But the university isn't determining whether the student is a criminal. The university is responsible for determining whether a student violated a code of student ethics which can discipline a wider range of student behavior, including things that are not criminal. When I was younger and dumber, I got warned for a spectacularly stupid internet prank. Probably not illegal, definitely unethical, absolutely against university policy. I got caught and took my lumps.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:22 PM on April 25


And just to throw it on all the table here's what I support and think should happen:

* Men not raping women
* Swift informal investigation (~48-72 hours) by any campus "police force"
* Immediate suspension of the accused if a campus deliberative body finds there's a preponderance of evidence that the rape happened
* Turning over any and all evidence to the local police and DA
* The offender then being prosecuted
* If the victim feels the university is incorrect in that a preponderance of evidence doesn't exist, they should still be able to press charged through the local police and DA but if there's not a lot of certainty in the crime the accused shouldn't be suspended
* However if the accused is indicted they should be immediately suspended from classes

What I don't support:
* Doing anything to the accused before a preponderance of evidence or until the accused is arrested and indicted.
* The accused being slapped on the wrist by a shitty university deliberative body in place of the criminal justice system.

Sticking points:
* University campuses have historically not acted in good faith towards these women in the past in these situations.
* Local police (especially in smaller college towns) have been loathe to intrude and prosecute these offenders.
* As a result, not many people have faith that rapes cannot be adequately dealt with by the system at present.

My opinion:
* Yes, it's really shitty that things happen and they're dealt with so poorly, but unless we overhaul the system completely from universities and police departments taking these things seriously, we're just bandaiding the whole system extra-judicially. Would it not be better to make sure that all women can report a rape and see it fully investigated and prosecuted where fit and in an orderly manner?
* This good faith in the justice system to be able to handle this seemingly simple task comes from my own privilege as a straight, white male but it should be something we should all expect from our society. If this needs to change it should be what needs to be attended to with great urgency.

Is there anything here that I've missed that would warrant me changing my opinion or what I think should happen?
posted by Talez at 4:24 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Would it not be better to make sure that all women can report a rape and see it fully investigated and prosecuted where fit and in an orderly manner?

Yes. What do we do until that happens, however, given that it's already been a good 30 years of feminist activism to advance us to even this shitty state of affairs? Force sexual assault victims to report to outside law enforcement against their will?
posted by jaguar at 4:29 PM on April 25 [3 favorites]


That I'm not sure of. But I'm almost sure that extra-judicial actions aren't the answer.
posted by Talez at 4:32 PM on April 25


And, actually, having worked in a rape crisis center in a college town, I know that there's already a huge issue involved with students not wanting to tell anyone at the college about what happened because they don't even want the statistics reported, as required by the Clery Act.

At this point in time, any policy requiring sexual assault vicitms to go on record before they can receive any remedy -- including changing their own schedules or residences, or getting accommodations via the ADA for PTSD -- is going to discourage victims from getting the help they need.
posted by jaguar at 4:34 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


That I'm not sure of. But I'm almost sure that extra-judicial actions aren't the answer.

I mean this in a nice way: You should probably figure that out. It's all well and good to have abstract ideas of how things should go, but if they don't map onto reality, they're of rather limited use.
posted by jaguar at 4:36 PM on April 25 [5 favorites]


What I don't support:
* Doing anything to the accused before a preponderance of evidence or until the accused is arrested and indicted.


My understanding is that universities already are required by law to use the "preponderance of evidence" thing in determining whether a student is guilty of violating the policies and rules of the institution. So you already have that. If a student brings a complaint against another student, and the accused is found guilty of violating university rules, they can be separated from the institution.

Are you requiring that (in the case where actual crimes may have been committed) the university not follow its own internal policies regarding when students found to be in violation of rules can be suspended or expelled if there is no finding (yet) in a criminal investigation or trial?
posted by rtha at 5:22 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


The concern about extra-judicial actions doesn't make sense to me because universities are not a matter of birthright citizenship. They're a social contract which makes certain demands of student in terms of continued academic achievement and ethics. I think that universities can step in when it comes to harassment or threats against other students, which may be difficult to criminally prosecute but is something that RAs and university officials don't need to tolerate. One episode of my youthful college rebellion included getting threatened with dormitory eviction for rescuing a kitten. (She ended up at may parent's.) Residence Life had things to say about the posters on my door, the size of my fridge, which bed I used, the co-ed bathroom in the middle of the hall, and a theoretically "dry campus." My relationship with my first roomate lasted a week. He got pissed off that the first time we met involved me and my parents unlocking the door on him and a girlfriend, and it went downhill from there. I got a transfer shortly after. Musical rooms due to shifting romantic relationships was just sort of a thing.

So the notion that universities can't do much of anything with respect to sexual assault doesn't make sense to me. Universities are authoritarian about a great many things. Students should have a due process system, and it should be confidential in many cases, but let's not pretend that it needs to be at the same level as an idealized 5th amendment before universities can move students to different dorms, or impose disciplinary sanctions.

And linking ADA needs regarding mental illness to mandatory reporting or prosecution is just ridiculous. Those accommodations need to be available on the basis of a professional's signature, and the details kept confidential.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:34 PM on April 25 [11 favorites]


When I was assaulted in elementary school, although the principal wouldn't admit it happened or cooperate with any investigation, he did say that IF it HAD happened, he wouldn't punish the boys involved because it would be too traumatic for them, especially the ringleader, who he knew had an unhappy home life.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:47 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]


Hey dude, nice to hear from the alternate universe where "instantly expel the accused from campus housing" is a plausible policy change that could happen

Well there is this case. I feel conflicted about it but don't mention it here as some kind of MRA counterpoint to the above discussion, god forbid, but because it seems complicated and is maybe relevant to the point slkinsey has been making about schools fearing litigation.

(Also because I have a son entering Vassar this fall and have been reading up on its policies. I am curious whether they are, in fact, substantially different from those of Columbia and other schools discussed here.)
posted by torticat at 6:46 PM on April 25


What about that case? He was expelled after a hearing, not immediately on the basis of her accusation alone. She said she was drunk, two witnesses testified she was drunk (and called campus security when they saw him walking off with a clearly drunk girl). Drunk - therefore couldn't consent, preponderance of the evidence - guilty verdict - expulsion.
posted by Danila at 7:37 PM on April 25 [5 favorites]


jeather: "Sounds like they were found guilty most of the time but still allowed to stay in school."

Doesn't your quoted block say they were suspended for a year?

emptythought: "There is obviously a middle ground between the two extremes here, where an intelligent functional system could be created that isn't some easily abused thing but also isn't the piece of shit way of dealing with it that exists now. I don't think that's too hard of a concept to grasp."

I have great hopes that tech like google glass gains wide acceptance and up take and that in turn it finally gives some closure to cases of one parties word against another in the same way that Russian dash cameras reduced rampant insurance fraud in that country.
posted by Mitheral at 8:03 PM on April 25


I have great hopes that tech like google glass gains wide acceptance and up take and that in turn it finally gives some closure to cases of one parties word against another in the same way that Russian dash cameras reduced rampant insurance fraud in that country.

That's the first thing someone has ever said that made me think that an always on personal recorder has a function to play in society.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:08 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]


2) THERE SHOULD BE MANDATORY REPORTING TO THE ACTUAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM BECAUSE OF A SYSTEMIC BIAS TOWARD SWEEPING ACCUSATIONS UNDER THE RUG.
My institution has mandatory reporting. Not all faculty and staff are included, but I am. There are very good reasons for this policy, but it has big downsides. If a student tells me that he or she has been sexually assaulted or that someone else has been assaulted, I have to call the sexual assault coordinator, and she calls the cops. The cops do an investigation, whether the student wants it or not, and reports to the prosecutor. In our jurisdiction, the prosecutor won't bring charges if the victim is unwilling, but that's the first point at which the victim gets any real say in the process. And that stinks. Survivors of sexual assault have already been deprived of bodily autonomy, and I hate being a part of a system that takes control away from them in such a drastic way. Students often assume that the things they tell me are confidential, and I hate that I could have to violate someone's trust when they're vulnerable. On the other hand, I am utterly aware that this system exists because of specific abuses that made it clear that people in positions like mine cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of students who have been sexually assaulted.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:28 PM on April 25 [13 favorites]


BobbyVan: "(Though perhaps this concern could be mitigated if the punishment for falsely accusing another of sexual assault was sufficiently severe.)"

Well, the current punishment for LEGITIMATELY accusing another student of sexual assault is generally harassment by the friends of the accused to the point that it drives the victim-accuser off campus. One year when I was in college, two women reported their rapes and, even though the rapists' names were not disclosed during the investigation, the rapists' friends in both cases widely disseminated the information that some "stupid crazy bitch" was accusing their buddy of rape, and harassed these women so constantly that both withdrew from the university. A third young woman, who was raped by an athlete, was harassed so comprehensively, by grown alumni living several states away as well as incessantly on campus, that she killed herself. A young woman who lived down the hall from me was raped by an athlete later that year. She decided not to report her rape and instead to become the athlete's booty call because it was obvious to her that there was literally nothing she could do to protect herself after the three widely-whispered-about earlier situations and remain in school, so it was easier to acquiesce to his demands for further sex. She dropped out after that year, due to stress.

None of these were prosecuted as rapes; the first two were dropped when the women left the state. The third one is still in a mess of litigation because now it's a suicide. The last one was, obviously, not reported.

Given the already-low rate of sexual assault reporting AND the extreme retaliation that rape victims face when they report, I'm pretty sure the penalty for reporting rape is already high enough to adequately disincentivize false reports.

Talez: "Would it not be better to make sure that all women can report a rape and see it fully investigated and prosecuted where fit and in an orderly manner? * This good faith in the justice system to be able to handle this seemingly simple task comes from my own privilege as a straight, white male but it should be something we should all expect from our society."

Well, that's theoretically the situation as it currently exists, but the justice system doesn't do this. Not just at universities; all over the United States. (For example, Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order SVU has been helping fund an effort to work on the backlog of 11,000 untested rape kits in Detroit; 100 SERIAL rapists have been identified just by the 2,000 kits tested so far.) Memphis, TN, has 12,000 backlogged rape kits going back to the 1980s. NYC's arrest rate for rape reports jumped from 40% to 70% when they started PROCESSING THE DAMN KITS. The federal government estimates there are at least 400,000 unprocessed rape kits nationwide. That evidence degrades sitting in storage, and defendants are starting to successfully challenge their convictions on the basis that the evidence is so degraded, by the time police get around to processing it, that it provides a reasonable doubt.

The justice system has proven itself comprehensively unable to handle this "seemingly simple" problem at every step, from unsympathetic police officers who brush off victims, to a complete inability to process physical evidence that can provide a positive ID, to prosecutors who are hesitant to prosecute rape cases and only press charges where they have a "good" victim, to attorneys and judges and juries who use evidence of a victim's prior sexual activity in deciding whether or not a rape occurred.

It'd be super-great if women could expect that reporting a rape would result in the accusation being "fully investigated and prosecuted where fit and in an orderly manner." But that simply isn't what happens, and turning over colleges' clusterfracas of a process to the police isn't going to improve that. (Don't get me wrong, every woman at my college knew to call the county police, not the campus police, for sexual assault, because the college doesn't care about justice, it cares about liability, and the county police at least weren't trying to cover their asses liability-wise the way campus police often did.)

Moreover, I think residential colleges and universities, with student housing, do actually have a special and higher duty of care to their students. I know the "in loco parentis" model has fallen out of fashion since the 1960s, but residential colleges are taking VERY young adults, who are paying tens of thousands of dollars, housing them in university-owned and managed housing, with university-employed cops, and along with that comes an implicit and often explicit promise that these students will be safe. If you're going to put 5,000 18-year-old women in a bunch of dorms, then, yeah, I think you have an extra duty to render their living situation NOT RAPEY.

I'm starting to feel like the only thing that will get college's attention on the RAPE PROBLEM instead of the liability problem is if female students and alumnae are out there meeting every single prospective student tour with big signs and posters that say, "DON'T SEND YOUR DAUGHTERS HERE, THEY WILL NOT BE SAFE." "WE HAVE A CAMPUS RAPE PROBLEM AND ADMINISTRATION DOESN'T CARE." It feels like until parents refuse to send their daughters, a lot of these schools are going to keep shrugging and saying, "Well, that's just one student dropping out, we'll have more next year."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:18 PM on April 25 [37 favorites]


Drunk - therefore couldn't consent, preponderance of the evidence - guilty verdict - expulsion.

Yeah you're right, Danila. I regretted making that comment in an argumentative way. I was more interested in the case (and others like it) in light of slkinsey's comments about litigation against schools, but I'm not sure it's relevant to the FPP or a useful point of discussion.
posted by torticat at 6:24 AM on April 26


I'm starting to feel like the only thing that will get college's attention on the RAPE PROBLEM instead of the liability problem is if female students and alumnae are out there meeting every single prospective student tour with big signs and posters that say, "DON'T SEND YOUR DAUGHTERS HERE, THEY WILL NOT BE SAFE." "WE HAVE A CAMPUS RAPE PROBLEM AND ADMINISTRATION DOESN'T CARE." It feels like until parents refuse to send their daughters, a lot of these schools are going to keep shrugging and saying, "Well, that's just one student dropping out, we'll have more next year."

I'd prefer it if the women themselves chose not to go as opposed to parents telling their daughters what to do.
posted by jeather at 7:03 AM on April 26


jeather: "I'd prefer it if the women themselves chose not to go as opposed to parents telling their daughters what to do."

If you read the articles, you'll see many of the administrators dismissing student protests as "adolescents rebelling against authority." Spend any time around American college campuses, especially the high-end ones, and you'll rapidly discover that where the rubber meets the road for these administrations is a) alumni complaints that might result in a loss of donation dollars and b) parent and prospective parent complaints that might result in a loss of full-tuition-paying wealthy parents.

That's why it's crucial that protests must be both alumnae AND current students, and why they need to target not so much the prospective students but those students' parents. The parents are footing the bill, and the schools know they have to woo the parents, because generally the parents are setting boundaries on what is and isn't an acceptable school, and the students choose from within that universe of cost, academic quality, safety, distance, party-school-ness, etc., that the parents set boundaries on. These schools assure parents, "Your children are safe here." The students and alumnae need to refute that point quite directly: "Your daughters are not."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:39 AM on April 26 [5 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: "I'm starting to feel like the only thing that will get college's attention on the RAPE PROBLEM instead of the liability problem is if female students and alumnae are out there meeting every single prospective student tour with big signs and posters that say, "DON'T SEND YOUR DAUGHTERS HERE, THEY WILL NOT BE SAFE." "WE HAVE A CAMPUS RAPE PROBLEM AND ADMINISTRATION DOESN'T CARE." It feels like until parents refuse to send their daughters, a lot of these schools are going to keep shrugging and saying, "Well, that's just one student dropping out, we'll have more next year.""

So that was pretty much exactly the strategy used by students at my alma mater when I was in college, over 25 years ago. Students would address tours of prospective students and their parents, saying, politely, that the administration was not doing a good job of responding to sexual assault on campus, and that prospective students should be aware of this. For their efforts, the students were hauled in front of the student judiciary board and charged with disrupting university processes (I can't remember the exact charge, but it was about that Orwellian.)

It brought attention to the problem, yes, and got the women who were trying to change things threatened with expulsion.

And, more to the point, didn't help as much as it needed to, as there's a young woman right now suing the college over her rape in a frat this year. I am hoping that her lawsuit brings more change to my alma mater.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:28 AM on April 26 [1 favorite]


"interrupting institutional processes" was the charge. In 1987.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:31 AM on April 26 [3 favorites]


That's why it's crucial that protests must be both alumnae AND current students,

Last year, a group of students protesting unaddressed homophobia, racism, and sexual assault on campus interrupted a presentation for prospective students who were on campus so the college could persuade them to attend. Naturally, the protestors became the targets for anonymous threats. I wonder if any of them received "used" condoms in their campus mailboxes, like I did 25 years ago.

There's been a ton of discussion on the facebook alum groups that I'm on, both on my class-specific one and the general one for alumnae. People are writing emails and letters, and I know my class president has met at least once with college administrators about all of this.

We have an extra advantage in that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is an alum and classmate and she and Sen. Claire McCaskill are pushing to get more money for enforcement of the Clery Act and Title IX.

But I'm not going to hold my breath, honestly. It all feels very "same shit, different day decade."
posted by rtha at 8:40 AM on April 26 [2 favorites]


"interrupting institutional processes" was the charge. In 1987

I can't imagine how enraging that would have been.

The article describes the administration's actions to address sexual violence (eg designated "confidential rape counselors"), the largest of which seems to have been improving lighting on campus. That echoes what I remember from college just a couple of years later, and grad school more recently, in that the majority of institutional responses focused on "stranger danger" things like lighting and escorts, at the same time (as that article mentions) the vast majority of attacks come from an acquaintance.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:10 AM on April 26 [2 favorites]


Wow, gingerbeer. In 1987 the doorbell of my house at college rang. I was on front door duty that night, so I answered it, and found a couple of guys who said they were pledging to a frat at Wesleyan, and had been tasked with bringing a couple of Smithies back to campus, and would I like to come?

25 years later I'm still gobsmacked at that. Yeah, sure, I'll get in a car with a couple of dudes I've never met and cross a state line and go someplace I don't know anyone? What?
posted by ambrosia at 10:41 AM on April 26


To be abundantly clear, in an ideal world a woman should be able to agree to that offer without fearing for her safety. But that's not the world we live in.
posted by ambrosia at 10:47 AM on April 26 [2 favorites]


I also think that in an ideal world, no one in their right mind would think that being asked to "bring a couple of Smithies back to campus" was a reasonable request, even if they weren't implying rape.
posted by jaguar at 10:49 AM on April 26 [7 favorites]


Like, women's colleges are not take-out restaurants.
posted by jaguar at 10:50 AM on April 26 [9 favorites]


The thing that really makes me upset and despairing about this situation is that every single step of the way works against someone who has been sexually assaulted, and not a single institution can be trusted or relied upon to help, or even not actively hinder, any assistance for them.

I dislike the idea of extra-judicial solutions, but considering the grave difficulty of attempts to demand these universities or the police, or just the system in general, to provide protection or recourse, it just seems a logical place for a frustrated search for justice to go. So my in theory concerns run up against this harsh reality, and fixing the harsh reality wins.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:07 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]


Congress Offers Creative Solution to College Rape Epidemic: A dozen House members want to hit universities where it hurts—their U.S. News & World Report rankings.
posted by homunculus at 11:39 PM on April 26 [3 favorites]


Conservatives and the Concept of Consent: A Permanently Estranged Relationship
posted by tonycpsu at 1:48 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


Iowa college gives accused rapist choice: Expulsion or not walking at graduation

"But Why Are Colleges Involved In Penalizing Sexual Assault" Answered By President's Task Force
posted by tonycpsu at 11:18 AM on April 30


Brown Student Lena Sclove Speaks Out After School Lets Her Accused Rapist Return to Campus
posted by homunculus at 10:08 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]



Professor Files Charge Alleging [Harvard] University Violated Title IX in Denying Her Tenure
She alleges that the denial was in retaliation for her public expressions of support for sexual assault victims, as well as for complaining that she was not receiving the same pay as her male colleagues.
posted by naoko at 5:49 AM on May 2 [2 favorites]


This is interesting. US Department of Education investigating 55 colleges and universities.
posted by gingerbeer at 6:39 AM on May 2 [2 favorites]


The NY Times has had an increasingly good series of articles about this issue over the last week or so. This is the latest, and since they appear to be taking their coverage seriously there should be more to come.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:26 PM on May 3


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