Disciplinary action for sexual misconduct: Not harsh enough

Sarah Mae Alcorn

Opinions Co-Editor

Despite the recent attempts by administration to clarify the information regarding the reporting of sexual offenses on campus, I am still concerned with the disciplinary action that will be taken by administration once a sexual assault claim is proven valid.

While it has been stated by multiple members of the administration that the expulsion of a student who has been convicted of a sexual assault charge is one form of action that may be taken, the fact that there are any other disciplinary options that can be enforced is where my concern lies. 

I agree that taking this measure of discipline has the potential to create damage on the future of the person convicted (including the ability to receive a diploma in higher education) but considering the irrevocable mental and emotional and possible physical harm that the perpetrator has inflicted on the survivor, is the penalty of expulsion really too extreme? 

Outside of the College judicial system, when a sexual assault occurs and the perpetrator is convicted in court, the individual then has to live with the consequences as harsh as serving prison time to registering as a sex offender. Reporting a sexual assault to Whittier College is meant to provide the survivor with a sense of safety and security in a place that may offer more comfort than a police station could, but when this system fails to take adequate action to create this sense of safety, what other options does a student have?

A report on sexual assault from the White House Council on Women and Girls cites that 2/3 of rapists on college campuses are serial offenders, on average committing six different offenses. While this statistic may appear surprising, why should it? 

Students are taught through the lack of severity in the disciplinary action taken against them that their behavior, and the repercussions of their behavior, is not severe and the repercussions of their actions do not come close to compensating for the crime they have committed.  This lack of severity represents the acceptability of victimizing the perpetrator and, in doing so, removing the responsibility from their decision-making. 

As well as more preventative action, the implementation of a harsher punishment is necessary to lowering the prevalence of sexual misconduct occurrences on campus. How brutal do the cases of sexual misconduct have to become before administration opens its eyes and reforms policy to represent the best interest of the student body? 

One response to “Disciplinary action for sexual misconduct: Not harsh enough

  1. Utah’s Weber State University reports every suspected rape to police, even if the victim doesn’t want a report. They also publish stats as required by Utah law. If the dean’s office substantiates the claim, then the offender is expelled and cannot earn a degree from WSU or any other school in Utah’s public system. This happens regardless of whether a prosecution ensues.

    Prosecution is a double-edged sword, however. The high retribution in criminal justice that groups like RAINN demand requires a high standard of evidence for conviction and this is rarely available in campus sex assault cases. States are choking on prisons anyway–while I don’t think rapists should go away scot-free, I don’t think the 10-20-life kind of sentencing approaches can work. They won’t make campuses safer because most collegiate offenders are first-timers and recidivism after campus-type sexual offenses are punished is actually fairly low, contrary to what RAINN asserted in its open letter to Obama.

    Measuring incidence accurately is hard to do–sexual assaults are not unheard of at WSU, yet defensive behavior about dating, intoxication, and fraternity parties is effective prevention. A scary attempted abduction-rape-murder did take place here in 2004. As far as I know, this is the only such event in the school’s 125-year history. This kind of act deserves (and got) a long prison term. It’s not really the norm, though. Sex offenses connected with dating may not be pre-planned–they happen when a guy gets full of hubris in the excitement and starts thinking he can do whatever he wants.

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