Thursday, September 4, 2014

University Daily Kansan: Editorial: Sexual assault not a learning experience

Editorial: Sexual assault not a learning experience

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Posted: Thursday, September 4, 2014 1:02 am | Updated: 10:29 am, Thu Sep 4, 2014.
The University administration should be ashamed at the accusations regarding the mishandling of a reported on-campus rape last year. The University Daily Kansan will seek the truth about why it happened and hold administrative bodies accountable for their actions.
Tyler Kingkade’s article in the Huffington Post reports that a male student confessed to raping a female student in her dorm room after she got drunk at a fraternity party. He was found “guilty of non-consensual sexual intercourse” — which is rape — by the Office of Institutional Opportunity & Access (IOA), the campus entity that primarily deals with sexual assault reporting through the University.
The article said the University proceeded by placing the student on probation, banning him from student housing, and requiring him to write a four-page reflection essay as well as seek counseling. Rachel Rolf, associate general counsel for the University, told Kingkade that community service as a punishment would be too harsh.
The decision to rid the person of community service shows a lack of obvious action in this case. It also sets the precedent that sexual assault will be treated less rigidly than violations such as plagiarism, underage drinking or drug use on campus.
The IOA’s sexual harassment policy states that “sexual harassment is a violation... of federal and state law.” Why, then, is the University not treating these incidents as serious, illegal offenses? What message is this sending to victims who would rather not report a sexual assault? The University is telling them that the people who have wronged them could hardly suffer reasonable consequences.
Here’s the big issue: What part is the University playing in rape culture on campus? In the United States? We are, after all, on the list of 76 schools being investigated by the Department of Education for possible Title IX sexual assault violations.
The University should be protecting its students from future incidents of sexual assault, not letting offenders get by with a slap on the wrist. It is not enough to state that sexual assault is wrong; how the University handles these situations sends a message to the student body.
The first three bolded sections under Section II in the Association for Student Conduct Administration’s Gold Standard Practices for Resolution of Allegations
of Sexual Misconduct on College Campuses, the practices and guidelines the University said it follows, are:
1. First and foremost, student conduct is an educational process.
2. We have an obligation to respond to sexual violence that affects students.
3. Campuses are not courtrooms.
The Kansan Editorial Board understands the distinction between a campus and the criminal justice system. A campus hearing is not meant to mirror a criminal proceeding. But treating sexual assault cases as learning experiences? We simply do not agree.
The University should be focusing on educating students prior to an instance of sexual assault, and not through 37-slide presentations, ball pits and quiz programs that a student can breeze through in less than a minute. Show us where these situations occur in the real world. Make us understand consent. Be transparent about what the process and the sanctions look like. If there is indeed evidence of a crime, make it easier, not more complicated, for students to take legal action.
The University should not contribute to a non-reporting culture. If students knew up front that someone who potentially raped him or her would only be required to leave campus and write a paper, no one would report.
Tammara Durham, vice provost for student affairs, said Wednesday that the University and the victim agree upon an appropriate sanction for the accused after the investigation. If the victim wants to pursue a stricter sentence, such as expulsion or suspension, the victim can pursue a hearing process. Another time he or she will have to recount and live through their story. A deterring road block in the process.
Section III, subsection E of the ASCA’s practices guide says: “While an act of sexual violence can never be ‘undone,’ there may be situations in which sanctions or remedies can include some restoration of harm caused. Engage the campus community in conversation about appropriate sanctions and create a sanctioning guide… Include the rationale for sanctions so that both students understand the decisions.”
So much good can be done if we work together with administrators to change the process — before, during and after. To the University: show your students a commitment to meaningful education and just consequences. Show zero tolerance. Prove you are, indeed, advocates for students.
The core values of The University Daily Kansan as the student voice are to report the truth and hold administrative bodies and student leaders accountable for their actions. That will continue to be of utmost importance to us moving forward.
This coverage has encouraged quite a few students to speak out and voice their concerns. We will do our absolute best to be on top of everything related to the issue and be the source students, faculty, staff and alumni trust and come to when looking for the most recent information. You can expect us to dig deeper than we ever have before to shed light on rape culture at KU.
This is an incredibly important issue that undoubtedly affects students across campus, directly or indirectly. We will strive to tell the stories that are igniting our campus.
Members of The Kansan Editorial Board are Cecilia Cho, Emma LeGault, Maddie Schultz, Hannah Barling and Christina Carreira.