Students respond to sexual assault policy

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    Some argue in favor of stronger steps to protect UD students

     

    By Clare Myers

    Staff Writer

     

     

     

     

    The recent changes to the University of Dallas sexual assault policy have elicited mixed responses from the student body.

    Many on campus acknowledged that an update was necessary.

    “The old policy was useless,” senior Amy Sullivan said. “It needed to change.” However, several students have voiced concerns that the new policy has not gone far enough.

    “I would say that their policy lacks teeth,” senior Phil Wozniak said.

    The administration updated the university policy on personal and sexual violence to conform to federally mandated regulations that were signed into law last year. The changes include a clear definition of consent, guidelines for reporting assault and a lower standard of evidence.

    So far, students have generally said they approve that the administration is making efforts to put an end to the sexual violence that is widespread on college campuses across the nation.

    “It’s a step in the right direction,” senior Alex Pellegrino, co-chair of the student government Alcohol and Sexual Violence Committee, said. “I still feel that there is more to be done, especially in the area of creating a larger dialogue among the student body.”

    Although the controversial “one drink” policy was not adopted, students have expressed frustration that the rules regarding sexual assault and alcohol are still unclear.

    The student handbook now states that someone who is “incapacitated” by drugs or alcohol cannot give consent. “Incapacitation” is defined as “a state beyond drunkenness or intoxication.”

    “The one drink rule, I think that’s silly,” sophomore Mary Shannon McFall said. But she noted that the “incapacitation” rule is vague at best.

    Wozniak pointed out that under the new policy, if a student reports an assault, university employees are required to report to the Title IX coordinator but are not required to report to local law enforcement.

    “[The university should] call the police,” Wozniak said. “Protect our student body …and send the message that we take this very seriously.”

    Dore Madere, director of student life, said that the reason for this was to give the victim a choice.

    “It’s giving power back to the victim,” she said. “We’re not going to tell them how to proceed.”

    Employees of the university are trained to outline the options for a victim who reports an assault. The victim can choose to lodge an informal complaint to the university, a formal complaint that launches a university investigation or a criminal report to the police.

    Several students voiced the opinion that reporting to the police should be an automatic policy that the victim could choose to opt out of.

    “In that very confusing time right after an incident, the victim should at least be encouraged to report to the police,” Pellegrino said. “I don’t think just laying out the options is enough.”

    Madere said that in cases where a failure to report to the police could endanger other students, the university has the authority to report to local law enforcement even if the victim chooses not to make a criminal report.

    “We try to keep it as confidential as possible,” Madere said. “But if keeping it confidential means that someone else could be at risk, then we can’t keep it confidential.”

    Wozniak, who participated in the info sessions last semester, said that students there discussed practical ideas that were not included in the new policy, including a golf cart “taxi” service on weekend nights from campus to the Tower Village apartments.

    Madere said that administration was still working on the logistics of the service.

    A common sentiment among students who provided feedback was that the culture at UD makes sexual violence a thorny issue to handle.

    “Some people might feel like the policy does not do enough, but I really think that that may be due in part to an attempt by the university to honor the dignity of both the woman and the man involved in the situation,” senior Colleen Slattery said. “How do you balance carrying out justice and offering the perpetrator a chance for redemption? How can you protect the victim while not condemning the perpetrator for life?”

    Several students said that regardless of this, the university has a responsibility to take a stronger approach toward sexual violence than it has under the current policy.

    “Sexual assault is not an ‘incident,’” Wozniak said. “It’s a crime.”

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