Guilty Until Proven Innocent at Colby-Sawyer College
July 29, 2003 11:16 AM   Subscribe

I hope you have your consent forms. According to page 23 of The 2003-2004 Colby Sawyer Student Handbook, students accused of date rape are expected to provide "evidence of unequivocal consent" to defend themselves from the charge. The handbook does not state what constitutes "evidence of unequivocal consent".
posted by DWRoelands (42 comments total)

 
Horrors. Some random uni has some random policy. Next...
posted by woil at 11:29 AM on July 29, 2003


A hidden spycam in the dorm room should work well.
posted by bobo123 at 11:31 AM on July 29, 2003


"The handbook does not state what constitutes 'evidence of unequivocal consent'"

One would think a cell phone with a built-in camera would come in handy here. Have the potential partner hold a sign on which is written "I have agreed to perform (---act---) with (---name---) on (---date---)", photograph said potential partner, then upload to a web site [Anyone interested in going in together on "consensualsexevidence.com"? I smell an IPO here.] . Maybe the potential partner could also hold up that day's newspaper as further evidence.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:34 AM on July 29, 2003


of course, there's the whole "innocent until proven guilty" thing that, by precedent, does not have to be followed by any non-government court

sad


so yes, I'll invest in the consexualsexevidence.com web site
posted by yesster at 11:41 AM on July 29, 2003


Well, woil, it's nice that you see it that way. Of course, were you a student at said university, I'm sure you'd enjoy the guilty-till-proven-innocent policy.

Imagine-- you shag your favorite coed,
who wakes up the next morning,
remembers what a jerk you are,
decides campus would be a better place without you,
files a complaint, and,
takes you to a "discliplinary hearing".

Where you,
don't enjoy the right to face your accuser,
don't enjoy the right against self-incrimination,
cannot produce the requisite "proof", and therefore,
Are out the 20 large you paid in tuition,
and, with "rapist" on your transcript,
spend the rest of your academic career at a fine New Hampshire community college.
posted by trharlan at 11:42 AM on July 29, 2003


1. DW, it would be enlightening to know from where, and why, you came across a specific page of a specific college's student handbook. Was this referenced to you from someone for or against this policy? I ask because

2. ...it adheres to the context one could look at this. trharlan exemplifies one who sees this as an attempt to totally villify the accused, yet as one whose friends have experienced the horror of trying to prove they were raped I can suggest that perhaps the intent of the policy is to remove the abilty for the accused to get off on the "well, I thought" card.

These policies are a tricky issue, because it always affects those two extreme sides: those who fear the helplessness of the justice system for rape victims, and those who fear the horrors of a false accusation of rape. Justice looks as these two participants and the general mentality is to hope for a system that makes it easier on... well... whoever's right. If the person was really raped, then it's a terrible system when they have to go through such hoops for justice. If the person was falsely accused, then so much must be done to prevent the immediate stigma.

As for the policy itself, I don't think it's as clear-cut as the FPP entails it to be. At Columbia a few years ago, a policy was inacted in which the accused could not ask, among other examples, to have a lawyer present during an inquiry into a charge of sexual assault. To the best of my knowledge the lawsuits against that ensue.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:56 AM on July 29, 2003


How can we be sure that the 'unequivocal consent' (written note, photo with sign, etc.) wasn't made under duress?

Do they need to go, separately, to the administration building and verbally affirm their sexual intentions to be preauthorized?
posted by kfury at 12:08 PM on July 29, 2003


I can suggest that perhaps the intent of the policy is to remove the abilty for the accused to get off on the "well, I thought" card.

But what is "evidence of unequivocal consent"? You'd be hard pressed to find anyone in the world who could provide you with that sort of evidence relating to their last sexual encounter.
posted by 4easypayments at 12:09 PM on July 29, 2003


Just because a college says it can do these things doesn't mean that it actually can. For fun, hire a lawyer and threaten to sue them for blah blah blah if they were to expel or otherwise discipline you, and see how fast they say "Well, we'll be satisfied if you attend 20 hours of sensitivity training."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:15 PM on July 29, 2003


Why can't you just accuse back? Where's the other parties evidence? Presumption of guilt sounds conveniently unisex.
posted by NortonDC at 12:16 PM on July 29, 2003


ROU_Xenophobe, I sat on the Discliplinary Board of my (large, Midwestern) university for two years. The board handled all cases that could possibly result in suspension or dismissal. The university would routinely take "cases" that couldn't be proven in court and throw them in front of D-Board-- trying to run the unsavory characters out of town by any available means. And since the board doesn't pretend to be a court, but rather an internal review board, there really is little that most here would call "due process".

Any time one of the board members raised legal issues, the university "student-affairs" honcho told us not to worry about it, as the law more or less insulates them from liability. IANAL, but they claimed never to have lost a civil appeal of a D-Board action.

The real bitch was that, since the "jury pool" of four students and four professors was so reactionary, I could consistently predict how the vote would go, even before the specifics of the case were presented.

Serving on the board left a very bitter taste in my mouth, and left me extremely distrustful of authority.
posted by trharlan at 12:37 PM on July 29, 2003



posted by jpoulos at 12:40 PM on July 29, 2003


If anything, it seems to me that the University's most plausible goal is to demand "100% knowledgable consent" for the purpose of hoping that the students will make 100% sure they're consenting to whatever they're doing on their own. I agree that in the fact of real lawyers and public/media attention the threats against either side are unlikely in merit, but perhaps this can point out the easiest way to prevent getting into these situations is to act as if the policy is binding.

I'm curious as to why anyone out there wouldn't want to be 100% sure the person they were having sex with wanted to or not.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:42 PM on July 29, 2003


Perhaps I'm just a crazy foreigner, but in other countries, we let the police and the criminal law take care of rapists.

If one of my fellow students were raped, I would not be telling them to go to the university authorities; I'd help them get down to the police station.

That aside, presumably if testimony from one party is evidence, then that goes for both parties. "Did!" "Didn't!"
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:44 PM on July 29, 2003


XQUZYPHYR, the entire Student Handbook (complete with the page in question) is online at the college's website, which the the link I originally posted.

I picked the link up on another site that's similar to Metafilter, but it didn't garner any attention or comments. I thought the MeFi crowd would give the issue the thorough beating it deserved. :)
posted by DWRoelands at 12:51 PM on July 29, 2003


Just bag the dean and accuse him next day. See how fast the rules get changed then.
posted by Nauip at 12:57 PM on July 29, 2003



posted by quonsar at 1:03 PM on July 29, 2003


trharlan: thanks. i was repeating what lawyer-oids had told me.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:28 PM on July 29, 2003


Perhaps I'm just a crazy foreigner, but in other countries, we let the police and the criminal law take care of rapists.

But in the US, college students are treated as children; they're not old enough to drink, mommy and daddy are usually paying for the experience, and things like the whole fraternity/sorority system help ensure they remain drooling adolescent morons for as long as possible. In that kind of culture, it's no surprise that absurd rules like this flourish.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 1:59 PM on July 29, 2003


They are, however, old enough to vote, sign contracts, sign up for the military, and get married. Go figure.
posted by ilsa at 2:16 PM on July 29, 2003


I'm curious as to why anyone out there wouldn't want to be 100% sure the person they were having sex with wanted to or not.


I couldn't tell you, but I'm guessing it has to do with power and entitlement in a lot of cases.
posted by different at 2:23 PM on July 29, 2003


Jeezus N.M.I. Key-reist, do they also have to stipulate who's going to sleep on the wet spot?
posted by Wet Spot at 2:25 PM on July 29, 2003


also joe spleen:

say, at a school like columbia, where there has 'never been a rape case' [despite what you might have heard from the women who go there who have reported rapes to their local deans...] if the local authorities aren't privy to information about sexual assault cases then the school can continue to boast that it is 'safe'. there won't be an external scandal.

tharlan - it's really telling that upon hearing about this you immediately identify with the rapist, and then use misogynistic language to support your claim.

Rape is as misreported as any other crime. The important thing about rape is that men stop doing it.

on preview: what different said.
posted by goneill at 2:31 PM on July 29, 2003


Has anyone ever been to New London, New Hampshire? I don't know why, but the town is entirely populated by The Elderly and a few college students.

My grandmother retired there, and I never did figure out why except that about 3,500 other old people had the same idea. It would be more fun to go to college in the Aleutian Islands. If you can't hump, there's very little to do there. You could go out for ice cream, I guess.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:32 PM on July 29, 2003


goneill:

I take offense. Is "coed" a misogynistic term? "Shag"?

And fuck you for saying that I "identif(ied) with the rapist." I identified with a hypothetical person who was falsely accused of rape.
posted by trharlan at 2:45 PM on July 29, 2003


And fuck you for saying that I "identif(ied) with the rapist."

but only with full unequivocal consent, of course.
posted by quonsar at 2:50 PM on July 29, 2003


Mayor Curley, I like the way you capitalize "The Elderly" like something out of a Stephen King novel.
posted by pjgulliver at 3:27 PM on July 29, 2003


Maybe I have watched too much "Law and Order," but if the College or University is privy to an act of rape and takes action against a rapist for it, but doesn't report it to the police, aren't they an accessory to rape?
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:32 PM on July 29, 2003


You know, goneill has an excellent point here. I was just thinking about this, and while it doesn't seem reasonable, necessarily, to have to offer some tangible evidence of consent, I was one of the people who worried that policies like this would result in men forever being branded rapists because the women they slept with decided afterwards to do so.

Until I thought about it and realized: What the fuck kind of a woman would do something like that?

Despite what frustrated guys like to tell themselves all the time, women are NOT crazy and evil. The woman who would ruin your life for no real reason beyond a night of bad sex is an extremely rare sight indeed, I'd gather. And should you ever run into one like that, I think the signs that she was evil and psychotic would come well before the stage where you actually got to sleep with her.
posted by nath at 3:52 PM on July 29, 2003


pjgulliver, I'm not as familiar with Stephen King's work as I might be. However, if he wrote a horror story about old folks, he probably drew his inspiration from the bean suppers at the Durham Methodist Church in his home town.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:08 PM on July 29, 2003


trharlan -
I'll add that to my list of reasons why I don't have sex with people I'm not at least seriously dating.

My point in saying "so what" is that I think that if a PRIVATE college wants to have a policy like this one, so what. Let people vote with thier $ as to where to go to school or not. The libertarian side of me says if it's private, then who cares what they do.

And furthermore, I'm sure that if it really is rape, it'll be reported to the police to handle.
posted by woil at 4:19 PM on July 29, 2003


"Despite what frustrated guys like to tell themselves all the time, women are NOT crazy and evil. The woman who would ruin your life for no real reason beyond a night of bad sex is an extremely rare sight indeed, I'd gather. And should you ever run into one like that, I think the signs that she was evil and psychotic would come well before the stage where you actually got to sleep with her."

Despite what frustrated gals like to tell themselves all the time, men are NOT crazy and evil. The man who would ruin your life for no real reason beyond a night of bad sex is an extremely rare sight indeed, I'd gather. And should you ever run into one like that, I think the signs that he was evil and psychotic would come well before the stage where you actually got to sleep with him.

Aren't generalizations fun?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:43 PM on July 29, 2003


after kittenhate.com, I think consexualsexevidence.com sounds like a perfect idea - the next step, if you will....perhaps as a sideline to kittenhate? a supplement?
posted by jearbear at 5:23 PM on July 29, 2003


Aren't generalizations fun?

Yeah. Um... so are you saying many more women are prone to falsely accuse people of rape than I might have believed? Or do you just not like the way I phrased it?
posted by nath at 5:41 PM on July 29, 2003


goneill, my point was that it seems insane to even consider keeping rape "in-house" - I think we actually agree on that.

When I was at university about 10 years ago, there was a case where one student accused another of rape.

The student complained to the police. It emerged that it was a false accusation, and the student was later charged with laying a false complaint and wasting police time.

At the same time, said university had an extensive harassment policy which had attracted criticism for its broadness, vagueness and procedural inadequacies.

As far as i know, it never crossed anyone's mind that actual sexual assault could be treated as anything but criminal. And interestingly for trharlan, in the fullness of time, the criminal investigation revealed the false complaint.

Incidentally, an article I found searching my local newspaper shows a number of stories about false complaints, and a dubious, unsourced statistic claiming that between 2 and 5% of complaints to police in the US are false. To me this is a small number, but not "extremely rare" (nath).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:52 PM on July 29, 2003


"...are you saying many more women are prone to falsely accuse people of rape than I might have believed? Or do you just not like the way I phrased it?"

At this point, pretty much anything is possible, but I'll go with (A) just to be controversial.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:53 PM on July 29, 2003


Yeah, I'll go ahead and say that maybe more women would falsely claim rape than I had considered.

Keep in mind, I wasn't agreeing with the rules as outlined in the Colby-Sawyer handbook (far from it, actually, since with what little I know, I gather it's more feasible to prove someone was raped than someone had consented and there was no rape). I was saying that the chances of someone bringing a false accusation forward after consensual sex, the accusation being able to stand up, and actually wreck someone's life are not that high, given all the things that would have to happen there. Similar to why I don't own a gun even though violent crime does happen.

At this point, pretty much anything is possible

So are you just fucking with me, are you trying to make a point, or what?
posted by nath at 6:30 PM on July 29, 2003


In real life rape cases who is more likely telling the truth or at least more truthful and who has the bigger burden of proving their case: the woman (unless of course the woman is white, the man is black, and especially we are down south). However, in real life what is ever obtained from either partner in sex other than at most a verbal OK and more likely no resistance to the next step? In a case of he said she said, is his (or perhaps hers if she is the accused) evidence of unequivocal consent? Unless it is, these rules are nothing more than a joke that puts anybody having any sex at risk of punishment.

Oberlin passed something similar many years ago. I would be curious as to how it has played out over the years. My guess is that mostly it has eased the burden on true victims, but in probably more than a few instances been used to rout "undesirables" from the campus.

The ends do not justify the means. Just because it is difficult to prosecute date rape does not mean it should become impossible to defend against it.
posted by caddis at 7:07 PM on July 29, 2003


"So are you just fucking with me, are you trying to make a point, or what?"

I had a point when I made the first post, but between then and the second one I sort of forgot what it was. I think it had something to do with the idea that women aren't all crazed false-rape-accusers being a companion to the idea that men aren't all crazed rapists, and maybe the idea of treating all of them as such is unfair.

Yeah, I think that's about it.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:26 PM on July 29, 2003


And furthermore, I'm sure that if it really is rape, it'll be reported to the police to handle.

Why so sure, woil?

Why would a woman necessarily report rape to the police?

She might not be believed, her sexual history may be brought into public arena, there will certainly be discussion about what she was wearing, how much she had to drink and whether or not she had slept with the man in question before. Hell, if she's really unlucky, she might have her name and image posted on the Internet, along with her home and work addresses and contact details.

I'm not saying, of course, that all accusations of rape are legitimate. I'm just saying that there are many reasons why rape, especially date rape, might be kept to oneself.
posted by different at 12:57 AM on July 30, 2003


Chuck Berry protected himself with a Polaroid camera. Before he'd have sex with a fan, he'd insist she strip and pose for a photo with him, smiling with their arms around each other. Allegedly.
posted by Pericles at 8:54 AM on July 30, 2003


think it had something to do with the idea that women aren't all crazed false-rape-accusers being a companion to the idea that men aren't all crazed rapists, and maybe the idea of treating all of them as such is unfair.

Um... I think that's pretty valid. I by no means meant to imply that I thought men were crazed rapists. And I think both are things to keep in mind, which is why I'm not sure how we got to disagreeing in the first place.
posted by nath at 8:58 PM on July 30, 2003


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