Sexual Misconduct on College Campuses

Every week there's another appalling story about the way college campuses deal with sexual misconduct.  A Rolling Stone investigation of UVA shows that on some campuses there's not much of a response even if  a student complains of being gang raped by seven men at a frat party. Among many astonishing details in the story: there were 38 allegations of sexual assault in a recent one year period at UVA; and no student has ever been expelled for sexual misconduct there, while many have been expelled for violating UVA's revered honor code. 

On the other hand, there's this amazing story today about the other side of the sexual misconduct spectrum.  A male Swarthmore student was expelled for an allegedly non-consensual, non-penetrative sex act that occurred a day before the alleged victim initiated consensual intercourse with him (she complained about the earlier act nearly two years later).  Now Swarthmore is vacating that decision and giving the student a chance to have his case re-considered. (Understandably, he's moved on to another school.) Follow the link and read about the judicial process that led to the student's expulsion. Even if you're prepared to think an instance of sexual assault could conceivably precede consensual sex by just 24 hours, you have to agree that the accused student's case was horribly mishandled.

Anyone with college age sons and daughters (I have one of each) has to be completely appalled by both of these stories.  And everyone else with empathy and a sense of justice.


s. wallerstein said...

I entered the university just as the so-called sexual revolution was beginning.

Our sexual values had nothing to do with those of the university administration and still less with those of our parents.

We created our own values. We messed up a lot, but we learned along the way.

I'm now older than my parents were when I entered the university and I have no interest in dictating sexual values to the young.

I'm suspicious of older people dictating sexual values to the young because first of all, we older people have a less intense sex drive which makes it difficult for us to put ourselves in the place of the young and second, because being ugly and sexually unattractive, much of our moralizing about sex is motivated by conscious or unconscious envy of how desireable and sexy young people are.

So, I'm in favor of calling in the police when there is a crime such as rape. There is no reason why student rapists should be treated differently than non-student rapists. If there are problems in prosecuting some rape cases, the laws about rape should be changed.

If there is no crime involved, I think that some kind of student court, elected by students, should examine cases of student sexual misbehavior, but that we older people should not involve ourselves directly, even if some students ask for our direct involvement.

We should give advice from a distance, but let students and above all, the student community solve its own problems.

Craig Urias said...

I had been ranting this way and that about how assault cases should be handled by the police, with colleges not getting involved at all. Then I heard an NPR story about how Title IX actually requires that colleges be involved. Which is kind of a shocker. I can understand colleges being informed about assault cases for the purpose of preventing more of them, but actually meddling in specific cases still seems ridiculously wrong.

Jean Kazez said...

I'm not sure what I think about this. For equal educational opportunity, you do have to make sure young women can move around campus without fearing assault any more than men fear assault. So you do have to have all sorts of preventative systems, like escorts, the blue light system, security people, and so on. Suspending or expelling people who have committed assaults does make some sense to me, as a preventative measure, and that means having a judicial process on campus, because very few women want to go to the police. They don't think the accused will be convicted, and so on and so forth. So all that argues in favor of campus judicial hearings when students believe they've been assaulted.

On the other hand, I do see the problem with trying to run "trials" on campus without the proper protection for defendants, who are entitled to due process when the accusations are so serious. So I don't really know what the solution is. How do you protect female students' equal educational opportunity, if you let male students remain on campus even though they probably committed assaults?

I really don't know what the answer is!

Craig Urias said...

When I wrote that, I had in mind the inherent conflict of interest, i.e. that college administrations are interested in less rapes being acknowledged and reported at their schools. Even if faculties are generally well-meaning, it only takes a little lack of awareness and introspection for such conflicts of interest to be toxic.

But yeah, as you indicate, it's all complicated.

Just brainstorming ... police at nearby colleges could have a discreet/sensitive SVU-style division that would be permitted to share evidence and information with nearby college administrations, who could make the determination to suspend students or not (or devise some alternative, like partial home-arrest with GPS anklet and curfew). In other words, administrations would be able to observe cases from the inside, but not be allowed to interfere with them.