Policies questioned in wake of alleged assault
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 16:05
A Brandeis Hoot article published on April 27 has prompted widespread discussion on campus about the implementation of the University’s sexual assault policies.
According to the Hoot article, an anonymous undergraduate student who is currently on medical leave alleged she was raped by an anonymous Heller School for Social Policy and Management student in their off-campus apartment nearly a dozen times from October 2010 to January 2011. The case went before the Student Conduct Board last May, and the alleged assailant was found guilty of nine of 11 code violations in the Rights and Responsibilities Handbook, including section 3.1, which prohibits sexual contact without explicit and clearly communicated consent, according to the Hoot.
The article chronicles the story of the female student who felt the University was inadequately responsive to her grievances and questions the University’s full compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 policies concerning sexual harassment, stating, “a case file in the office of student rights and community standards contained no evidence of a university police investigation, a Title IX requirement.”
The Justice could not independently verify the facts of the case. University officials declined to comment to the Justice on details of the specific case due to federal privacy laws. The article does not present the male party’s information.
In April of last year, the Obama administration announced a new set of guidelines for colleges and universities to address sexual assault violations.
“A school that knows, or should reasonably know, about possible harassment must promptly investigate to determine what occurred. … Title IX investigation is different from any law enforcement investigation, and a law enforcement investigation does not relieve the school of its independent Title IX obligation to investigate the conduct,” according to the “Dear Colleagues” letter from Vice President Joe Biden that clarified policies under Title IX.
The Hoot article also states that the Student Conduct Board used a “clear and convincing” standard of evidence in this case, as opposed to the lower “preponderance of evidence” standard required by Title IX.
The University student handbook outlines the Rights and Responsibilities of victims of sexual assault. The handbook states that “the Department of Public Safety has full police powers and the staff is trained to provide accurate information on preserving evidence and the options for criminal prosecution, campus disciplinary proceedings, or both.”
The handbook, however, does not elaborate on what this training entails, including what information is taught and when the training is received.
The Brandeis University Class of 2015 Facebook group currently has 42 comments in response to the article and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance hosted an open forum yesterday to discuss sexual assault and harassment on campus and create a “decisive” plan for change. FMLA has been examining the University’s sexual harassment policy and FMLA President Amalia Bob-Waksberg ’14 said in an interview with the Justice that “we found that there were a lot of issues in the policy … and issues with things within the policy not being enacted.” She added, “So many students have told us that they were sexually assaulted and they didn’t feel safe telling Public Safety about it, and now they have to see the person who assaulted them on campus, and they didn’t know their resources.”
Bob-Waksberg describes the administration as being generally silent about sexual assault.
She says the administration cites a low incidence rate of sexual assault on campus, when in reality, sexual assault is being grossly underreported.
Bob-Waksberg and other FMLA members are involved in the planning of a silent protest of these circumstances, which will take place in the Goldfarb Library tomorrow from noon to 4 p.m.
Prof. Anita Hill (Heller) wrote in an email to the Justice, “Sexual assault[s] on college campuses, as in general, are under-reported. Brandeis is reviewing its sexual assault policies and procedures so that we can guard against the threat of sexual assault. However, when they occur, we want to make sure individuals can come forward without fear, raise charges and be heard, and be treated fairly during and after the complaint process.”
Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel informed the Justice about one new policy the University is planning to enact to combat sexual assault on campus.
“One of the opportunities that we’re exploring is the creation of a [staff] position specifically [addressing the issue of sexual assault]. We’re likely crafting this out of an opening we have at the counseling center. My hope is that we’ll be able to find resources to have a full-time position in this role,” said Flagel.
Students were generally upset by the implications of the Hoot article, and also expressed some skepticism.
“It's problematic that the administration didn't prosecute this case to the fullest extent,” said Dillon Harvey ’14.
“The administration should be creating a safe environment.”
“My concern is how the University can be so negligent to take care of students,” said Alina Cheema ’15. “They were inconsiderate of the student's safety.”
Student Union President Herbie Rosen ’12 said that he wants to learn more facts of the case. “Students want to know what they can do about it,” he said. “I want to understand the legal barriers and what's stopping us from doing something about it.”
“I have just a ton of questions about it,” said Daniel Goulden ’14.
—Shafaq Hasan and Tess Raser contributed reporting