In light of recent recommendations from the White House’s sexual assault task force and clarification of Davidson College’s own Sexual Misconduct Policy from Davidson’s General Counsel, we are moved as students to respond to Davidson College’s efforts to address sexual violence. While we appreciate Davidson’s willingness to follow federal guidelines outlined in the Dear Colleague Letter and the Jeanne Clery Act and applaud the efforts of our passionate administration, we believe that Davidson College can adopt changes to better meet its obligation to support victims of sexual violence.
Because of this, we sign our names asking that Davidson College form a task-force in the Fall of 2014 comprised of students, faculty, staff, and legal counsel to consider adopting the Sexual Misconduct Policy reforms listed below. First, we will list the suggested changes and below we will provide arguments for each change. For further citations and research, please contact Hailey Cleek (firstname.lastname@example.org), Susanna Vogel (email@example.com), or Hailey Klabo (firstname.lastname@example.org):
- The college should use more precise language in charging statements and discussion of offenses.
- The college should mandate a minimum sanction of suspension for one semester for students found responsible of sexually assaulting or raping a fellow student.
- The college must offer a method to challenge redactions and the inclusion or exclusion of evidence.
- Students need more assistance from the administration in preparing for Sexual Misconduct procedures including offering guidelines for content of statements (opening, closing, and impact) as well as offering more options for faculty advisors.
- The Sexual Misconduct Board and the Review Board should have to write a justification for the sanctions they impose.
- The campus should conduct a campus-wide climate survey.
- Patterson Court should continue to implement bystander intervention training.
- The college should encourage internal sanctions for Greek organizations.
- RLO should restructure freshman hall counselor training and provide residents with information about resources for victims of sexual violence.
- Male students should be encouraged to participate in discussion.
·The college should use more precise language in charging statements and discussion of offenses: Currently, students are charged with violating the Sexual Misconduct Policy. Sexual misconduct ranges from sending a pornographic email to brutal rape. Words like “sexual assault” and “rape” are absent from the hearing and conversations about the offense. these subtle word changes risk minimizing the serious issues at hand. During a hearing, specifiers ought to be used to preserve the qualitative differences between the actions to encourage panel members to address each violation with appropriate severity. By not using the proper words, panels can be desensitized to the specific nature of the violation.
·The college should mandate a minimum sanction of suspension for one semester for students found responsible of sexually assaulting or raping a fellow student. While the Sexual Misconduct Policy is separate from the Honor Code, we can imagine a case in the terms we associate with honor: rapists steal the victim’s right to decide what happens to his/her body. The perpetrator disrespects the values of trust and honesty that our community is based on by taking advantage of an opportunity to assault a fellow classmate. In Honor Council cases, students are often suspended for egregious violations of the Honor Code (e.g. cases of extensive plagiarism or cheating). Rape and sexual assault are egregious violations of the Sexual Misconduct policy, and therefore deserve a punishment that is severe. Suspension sends a strong, clear message that the school will not tolerate such behavior and that there are meaningful consequences for students’ actions. It is sufficiently punitive given the nature of the offense, but it does not end an accused student’s academic opportunities. Suspension also gives the victim time and space to begin to heal, because otherwise it is likely that victims will drop out of college and lose access to their education when they did nothing wrong. Moreover, suspending offenders can prevent future rapes and will help keep our campus safe. Studies repeatedly have shown that rapists are repeat offenders. Removing them from campus, even if only for a semester, prevents them from raping again during that time, and can serve as a strong deterrent against committing future acts of sexual violence. If Davidson does not adopt these minimum sanctions or start to increase their rate of suspensions, the Sexual Misconduct Panel risks sending the message that students are held accountable for their honor only inside the classroom.
·The college must offer a method to challenge redactions and the inclusion or exclusion of evidence, and this method must be explicitly outlined in the Red Book. Currently, the investigator interviews proposed witnesses, compiles a report of the interviews, and submits this document, any exhibits presented during interviews, and the complainant’s statement to the chair of the Sexual Misconduct Board for review. The chair then unilaterally redacts sections of the document(or deletes parts of the document) that she views as inadmissible in a hearing. The Sexual Misconduct Panel and the parties (the accused and complainant) never see the full investigative report; they only receive the redacted version. At no point can parties challenge the redactions (or even really know what was redacted unless it was from his or her own statement). The hearing only includes information included in the redacted investigative report, responses to the report (also subject to redactions), and any approved exhibits. The policy does not include a third party who can hear objections to the redactions prior to the hearing. After the hearing, The Review Board only considers evidence presented during the hearing, meaning information that has been redacted stays redacted.
·Students need more assistance from the administration in preparing for the hearing including offering guidelines for content of statements (opening, closing, and impact) as well as offering more options for faculty advisors. the college could include samples of potential questions that would be admissible during the hearing and provide examples of well-formatted statements in the Red Book. At this time there are only three trained advisors available for students to pick from to serve as advisors to guide them through the process. One of these people is Georgia Ringle, who will often be unable to serve as an advisor because she is frequently the first person contacted by the victim, and therefore a potential witness. More faculty and staff should be trained to be advisors so that students can choose someone they can trust and feel comfortable talking to about such hard material. This is paramount, because if students feel unsure about the process, they may be hesitant to report violations of the policy.
·The Sexual Misconduct Board and the Review Board should have to write a justification for the sanctions they impose. This way, the panel is accountable for their choice of sanctions and the process will be more transparent. In addition, panels should look to past cases for precedence for their sanctioning (like the honor council does). Each case should have a record of the digest of the hearing and the sanctions if applicable. These cases should be available for students to read with their advisors once names and identifying information have been redacted to protect the privacy of past parties. By considering past decisions, the panel would generate more standardized sanctions. The victims and the accused students will also have a greater understanding of what sanctions to expect given the nature of the alleged offense (e.g. if a student receives social probation for stalking another student, then in the next case of stalking the accused student might expect a similar sanction).
·The campus should conduct a campus-wide climate survey. Released by Not Alone, the “Climate Surveys: Useful Tools to Help Colleges and Universities in Their Efforts to Reduce and Prevent Sexual Assault” aids colleges in conducting surveys regarding sexual assault in their student bodies. Research demonstrates that victims rarely report their cases to law enforcement, and many do not seek out campus resources. By conducting a widespread, confidential survey of the student body, Davidson can better understand the needs and experiences of its community and address the practical shortcomings in the current policy as articulated by survivors. Further, Davidson can better assess the knowledge of its students regarding policies and procedures.
·Patterson Court should continue to implement bystander intervention training. Bystander intervention has demonstrated to be one of the most promising forms of prevention strategies. Although TIPS for the University® training aids the college in minimizing liabilities throughout Patterson Court, alternative programs (like the “Who Are You?” program offered by the Davidson Student Health Advisors) work to change perspectives regarding how individuals perceive a problematic situation. Such programming assists in teaching both men and women to speak out and intervene when they see someone at risk. More information on the program can be found on its http://www.whoareyou.co.nz/ webpage. Incorporating bystander intervention training as a second component to TIPS®training will aid individuals in assessing risk.
·The college should encourage internal sanctions for Greek organizations. A policy that passed Dartmouth’s IntraFraternity Council in 2012-2013 academic year required fraternities to impose penalties for sexual assault. Having an internal structure within Davidson fraternities, Eating Houses, and sororities to address to members found guilty of less severe violations of the Sexual Misconduct Policy (like verbal sexual harassment) would promote individual accountability on the court. Additionally, the PCC advisor should work with PCC organizations to implement a mandatory, sexual harassment-based educational event for Patterson Court organizations.
·RLO should restructure freshman hall counselor training and provide residents with information about resources for victims of sexual violence. Currently, all RLO members receive the same training regarding handling issues such as sexual assault, yet most cases nationally occur during students’ freshman or sophomore years. Teaching freshman hall counselors how to identify signs of possible sexual assaults, including results of assault like depression, would benefit the hall counselors and residents alike. This training will foster RLO members’ awareness of issues related to sexual violence, and empower them to better address these cases as they occur. Furthermore, encouraging RLO events/activities (such as attending a hall meeting on sexual assault, participating in an awareness campaign as a hall, etc.) would help students remain engaged with this subject throughout the year. In addition, all building managers, resident advisors, and hall counselors should hang public, visible displays (like bulletin boards) that list campus resources for victims of sexual misconduct and offer information about students’ Title IX rights.
·Male students should be encouraged to participate in discussion. By enacting discussions regarding community and campus influences on males at Davidson, we can begin to foster understanding and awareness regarding the social norms influencing sexual assault. Men can join with women at Davidson as allies in creating a healthy atmosphere that supports all genders in combating sexual violence. Bringing in a group such as Men Can Stop Rape will allow the men at Davidson to participate in questioning the societal norms at play when considering masculinity, domestic violence, rape, popular culture, and consent.