EDITORIALS

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January 22, 2010

Sexual assault policy needs work–still

The University should respond to demands for open dialogue about flawed procedures

Only three years after the University implemented its first sexual assault policy, the Working Group on Sexual Assault Policy (WGSAP), an independent student group, has met with an attorney in hopes of strengthening its opposition to the current policy. This growing frustration comes after over a year of effort on the group’s part, during which both Student Government and the Maroon have also called for changes. By moving slowly on efforts to reform a defective policy—or rejecting these efforts altogether—the Administration has failed to appropriately handle one of the gravest and most sensitive issues in student life.

The University’s current policy has several flaws. The policy offers more benefits to the accused than to the victim: The victim does not have an absolute right to face the accused or to have a student member on the disciplinary committee—both rights that the accused enjoys. Furthermore, the current panels are comprised of faculty from the accuser’s academic area, increasing the chances that faculty are already acquainted with one or more of the parties involved. This process makes non-acquaintance a virtual impossibility in small schools like the Social Service Administration.

In an encouraging sign, the University has finally signaled that it will offer sensitivity training to personnel involved in disciplinary procedures related to sexual assault. However, in a meeting with WGSAP last quarter, the University rejected proposals both to centralize disciplinary procedures and to form a committee to review the entire policy, citing, among other reasons, that it was too early to change the barely three- year-old rules. The Administration’s reasoning for these denials is insufficient: The fact that a policy is relatively new should never be a reason to defend its deficiencies, and this reluctance to go back to the drawing board seems to convey a stubborn lack of initiative in the Administration. Furthermore, creating a committee to review the entire sexual assault policy should be a no-brainer, as it would partially satisfy student demands and ensure an open dialogue. If sustainability, campus dining, and reviewing the University’s brand presence are issues serious enough to merit their own student-administrator committees, surely reviewing sexual assault policy deserves one as well.

The University lagged behind its peer institutions in implementing a sexual assault policy to begin with. Instead of continuing this trend of dragging its feet on such an important issue, the University should implement its new sensitivity policies as soon as possible, and allow a student committee to examine the remainder of its procedures with the aim of creating a fair and safe process for all involved.

— The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.