In his annual report last month, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 revealed a disturbing statistic—of the seven sexual assault cases that came before the Administrative Board last year, more than half were not resolved.
As a result, Lewis recommended that the Ad Board evaluate rape investigations earlier to determine whether sufficient evidence exists for the cases to be resolved. This change should help both rape victims and the College by encouraging victims to prosecute assailants in criminal court rather than before administrators and Faculty—resulting in fairer verdicts.
The Ad Board spends the majority of its time on minor academic issues such as reviewing late add/drop choices and approving Advanced Standing. It seems rather inappropriate that this same body—whose members have no formal experience in handling criminal charges—also has the responsibility of dealing with serious criminal allegations, including rape.
While investigating rape cases, the Ad Board is usually forced to rely solely on statements from the involved individuals—not on solid scientific evidence, as it does not have the forensic resources or subpoena power of a court of law.
Though Lewis’s proposed change will most likely reduce the number of rape cases reviewed in detail by the full Ad Board, it should not lessen the the College’s responsibility to help and protect rape victims. Because sexual assault can be both physically and emotionally debilitating, some victims will wish to avoid the criminal justice system. When sufficient evidence exists for the Ad Board to investigate a incident, these students should still find some recourse in the Ad Board. Additionally, this change should not reduce the College’s disciplinary actions for convicted rapists; the Ad Board must still punish students who are found guilty in criminal courts.
We hope that this procedural change is not perceived as a signal that the College is divorcing itself from the issue of sexual assault. Instead we hope this modification leads to the College extending and clarifying its responsibility to rape victims. Rape is a delicate and important issue on the minds of many students. We urge the College and University Health Services to ensure that staff have sufficient training to deal in an effective but sensitive fashion with sexual assault victims. One appropriate step would be to clarify the resources, staff and procedures available to students who have been raped.
As a result of this change, more victims should find justice by pursuing their assailants through the system best equipped to deal with these serious charges—the criminal courts. The College has been unable to resolve most of the recent rape cases presented to it; we hope that the criminal justice system can do better.