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How Other Schools Handle Date Rape Cases

By Matthew A. Light

As the issue of date and acquaintance rape erupted into prominence at Harvard during the last week, some students bitterly accused the administration of indifference--or even antagonism--to the concerns of victims.

Student protesters have called for reform of the Administrative Board, the disciplinary body responsible for hearing cases of alleged rape and for punishing rapists. In response to these demands, the administration on Wednesday agreed to set up a commision to study possible reform of the Ad Board. The sudden emergence of the issue may also encourage Harvard to study the policies of other schools and the opinions of experts.

Nadja B. Gould, a Harvard clinical social worker and rape counselor, expressed cautious praise for the administration's proposals. She said she was especially pleased by indications that the board's decisions would be less secretive.

"I approve of...the Ad Board notifying women of their decision," Gould said, referring to recent statements by Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57. At Wednesday's meeting with concerned students, Jewett said he agreed that the Ad Board should inform rape victims of the punishment it imposes on their assailants.

But Gould said she has doubts about Harvard's basic policy of placing rape cases before the same body that hears academic cases.

"I'm not sure that the Administration Board is the best body [to hear rape cases]...because rape is a felony, and the Ad Board was not formed to judge crimes," Gould said.

Gould added that she would like more campus rape cases to end up in courts of law.

"As a clinical social worker I would like to see...survivors of date rape pressing charges, because rape and date rape are some of the most underreported crimes," Gould said, adding that such a step would help to reduce the victim's feeling of harboring "a shameful secret."

Gould also mentioned the value of examining other ways of dealing with the emotionally charged issue.

"It's very important to study what other colleges do...to see if it's more comfortable for students to come forward," Gould said.

Harvard's rape policies are dramatically different from those of several other schools.

For instance, Princeton's dean of discipline, Kathleen Deignan, said that at her college, students are included in the disciplinary process. In marked contrast to Harvard, where students are currently excluded from the Ad Board, accused rapists at Princeton face a committee composed of two faculty members, a non-voting administrator and one student.

Also in contrast to Harvard, Deignan said, Princeton offers alleged rape victims a middle path between taking no action and filing a formal complaint. This third option is to seek university intervention without requesting punishment, she said. In such a case an alleged rapist might be summoned to discuss the case with administrators or ordered to avoid renewed contact with the accuser--but would not be subjected to further discipline.

At Harvard, Jewett's statement in an interview with The Crimson that "the person that's drunk is not always clear, is not always articulate, and that's why you get these cases" triggered an angry response from student protesters. Jewett has said that his remarks were taken out of context.

At Princeton, Deignan said, the university's policy is clear on the issue.

"I want to be emphatic about the fact that alcohol is not a mitigating factor" in cases of date or acquaintance rape, she said.

Date rape policies are even stricter at the University of California at San Diego, said Nancy J. Wahlig, coordinator of that school's Student Safety Awareness Program.

California law specifically states that a person who is "unconscious of the nature of the act" of sex cannot legally give consent. Thus, said Wahlig, anyone who has sex with an intoxicated person in effect commits statutory rape.

But Wahlig said that despite the strictness of the state's law, and despite the university's own "very broad" definition of rape, no U.C.--San Diego student has ever pressed legal charges of acquaintance rape.

One possible explanation for this apparent apathy, she suggested, is that "most students don't even know about the policy."

Noting that students need to be educated about the legal rights of rape victims, Wahlig said that colleges must conduct serious campus-wide campaigns to inform students about the nature and consequences of rape.

Wahlig said that many people are already far more educated about rape than they used to be and that courts have grown more severe in their treatment of rapists.

"The tide is turning," she said. "They're taking rape more seriously now."

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