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Reform the System

DATE RAPE AND THE AD BOARD:

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

ALL it took was two published comments on acquaintance rape to mobilize student protest. Now the challenge is to move toward concrete reform of the disciplinary system.

The comments--by Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 and Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education Jeffery Wolcowitz--created a maelstrom of controversy. Posters around campus--including some saying "Attack Jewett"--accused the two of blaming women for the incidents; student groups from the Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS) to The Crimson called for vast changes in how acquaintance rape cases are handled by the College.

To his credit, Jewett responded immediately to his critics. He contacted the two posterers and--setting aside their personal attacks on him--met with them to discuss the issue. He wrote a letter to RUS proposing a joint meeting with RUS leaders, the Faculty Council and the Administrative Board. He now plans a mass mailing to all undergraduates to explain his position.

Jewett's actions contrast strikingly to Wolcowitz's silence; as of last Wednesday, nearly a week after the article with his comments appeared, Wolcowitz arrogantly stated he had not yet read it.

THE discrepancy between Jewett's and Wolcowitz's responses is particularly disturbing because Wolcowitz's comments are substantially more damaging than Jewett's. Jewett had stated that some acquaintance rape cases are difficult to resolve because "when people are drunk they may not remember whether they said yes or not. The person that's drunk is not clear, is not articulate, and that's why you get these cases." Jewett's reference to "these cases" referred to difficult cases to resolve, not all date rape cases, as some students inferred.

Still, his comments implied that women can be faulted for not being "clear" or "articulate" enough in their refusals to have sex. That perspective implies that it is the woman's responsibility to remain sober and articulate--and not the man's responsibility to be 100 percent sure the woman is willing.

But no matter how unfortunate Jewett's comments were, they were a far cry from Wolcowitz's statement that "I think the women often find it difficult to say a forceful no. I have a sense that in many of these cases, the woman thinks she has said no, but it may have been in subtle ways--ways that have caused confusion." This statement lends credence to the vicous view that a stated "no" can be reasonably interpreted as "yes." It is this kind of statement that allows men to rationalize acquaintance rapes.

That Wolcowitz has not seen fit to read the article (or posters around campus) is testament by itself to his disregard for the entire issue of acquaintance rape. His silence speaks far louder than words. We again call for him to recuse himself immediately from all acquaintance rape cases pending before the Administrative Board.

SO WHAT now?

Already, student leaders have recognized the potential of harnessing anger over the deans' comments into energy to cause concrete change in the disciplinary system. It is disgraceful that only 2 percent of an estimated 180 acquaintance rape cases even come before the Administrative Board each year. If nothing else, Jewett's letter to all students--by emphasizing the seriousness of acquaintance rape--should encourage victims to bring their cases to the disciplinary system.

In his letter to RUS, Jewett expressed an unwillingness to alter fundamentally the current system for judging acquaintance rape cases. We are disappointed with this stance; we continue to believe a new administrative body could be far more effective. However, Jewett's evident sincerity in addressing this issue gives us hope that some solution--perhaps a radical reform of the Administrative Board's handling of acquaintance rape cases--could be worked out.

The issues of acquaintance rape are undeniably complex. Often the cases pit the word of one party against the other, reaching a judgment in these cases isn't easy. But the solution isn't to assume that the present system--which discourages women from pressing cases--is optimal. At the least, the College needs a disciplinary board that is much more accessible to victims of sexual assault, staffed by administrators who are trained to deal with the subtleties of acquaintance rape cases.

Student leaders and Jewett must continue to work in good faith toward an administrative system that does not discourage women from bringing rapists to justice.

Still, his comments implied that women can be faulted for not being "clear" or "articulate" enough in their refusals to have sex. That perspective implies that it is the woman's responsibility to remain sober and articulate--and not the man's responsibility to be 100 percent sure the woman is willing.

But no matter how unfortunate Jewett's comments were, they were a far cry from Wolcowitz's statement that "I think the women often find it difficult to say a forceful no. I have a sense that in many of these cases, the woman thinks she has said no, but it may have been in subtle ways--ways that have caused confusion." This statement lends credence to the vicous view that a stated "no" can be reasonably interpreted as "yes." It is this kind of statement that allows men to rationalize acquaintance rapes.

That Wolcowitz has not seen fit to read the article (or posters around campus) is testament by itself to his disregard for the entire issue of acquaintance rape. His silence speaks far louder than words. We again call for him to recuse himself immediately from all acquaintance rape cases pending before the Administrative Board.

SO WHAT now?

Already, student leaders have recognized the potential of harnessing anger over the deans' comments into energy to cause concrete change in the disciplinary system. It is disgraceful that only 2 percent of an estimated 180 acquaintance rape cases even come before the Administrative Board each year. If nothing else, Jewett's letter to all students--by emphasizing the seriousness of acquaintance rape--should encourage victims to bring their cases to the disciplinary system.

In his letter to RUS, Jewett expressed an unwillingness to alter fundamentally the current system for judging acquaintance rape cases. We are disappointed with this stance; we continue to believe a new administrative body could be far more effective. However, Jewett's evident sincerity in addressing this issue gives us hope that some solution--perhaps a radical reform of the Administrative Board's handling of acquaintance rape cases--could be worked out.

The issues of acquaintance rape are undeniably complex. Often the cases pit the word of one party against the other, reaching a judgment in these cases isn't easy. But the solution isn't to assume that the present system--which discourages women from pressing cases--is optimal. At the least, the College needs a disciplinary board that is much more accessible to victims of sexual assault, staffed by administrators who are trained to deal with the subtleties of acquaintance rape cases.

Student leaders and Jewett must continue to work in good faith toward an administrative system that does not discourage women from bringing rapists to justice.

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