Sexual assault on campus: the University of Michigan is no exception

December 6, 2009 § Leave a comment

This month the Center for Public Integrity released their investigative report on what Ann from Feministing describes as the “dizzying amount of utter bullshit faced by survivors of sexual assault on college campuses”.

The report titled Sexual Assault on Campus: A Frustrating Search for Justice shows that colleges and universities across the nation—religious, private, public, liberal or conservative—all, in practice, demonstrate a pathetic level of commitment to the safety of their students, and to justice for survivors of sexual assault.

The report confirms a previously found statistic that 95 percent of college women who  experience sexual assault do not report to campus police or officials. The report brings greater transparency to the convoluted and re-victimizing processes that survivors of sexual assault go through when trying to seek justice in the status quo.

Here is where the University of Michigan is not an exception. Sexual assault is not only a social problem, but also an institutional one. Michigan students: please take part in strengthening U of M’s policy and, thus, ability to give survivors a fairer chance at receiving a just verdict.

Tell the Michigan Student Assembly to vote yes on the amendment to the Statement of Student Rights & Responsibilities (SSRR) to include the “preponderance of the evidence” standard.

Currently, if a survivor decides to file a complaint with the Office of Student Conflict Resolution (OSCR) against a student who sexually assaulted her, the SSRR requires that the evidence brought by each party to the case be judged according to the “clear and convincing” standard of evidence. Meaning of all the evidence brought forward by both parties, at least 75 percent of it must be brought by the survivor in order for the prepetrator to be charged with responsiblity.

“Under our current code, if the survivor can’t amass the lion’s share of evidence in favor of her allegation,the perpetrator cannot be found responsible,” according to Beth Sullivan, chair of the President’s Advisory Committie on Women’s Issues (PACWI).

The proposal under consideration would change this, replacing the “clear and convincing” standard of evidence to the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, defined as “that amount of evidence that makes it more likely than not that the facts demonstrate a violation of college policy.” It is the standard that is used by most often used by college offices that handle student conduct complaints, according to the PACWI.

What students can do to see that U of M’s policy gets changed to better protect students:

  • Contact your MSA representative and MSA executive committee members between now and Tuesday, December 8th. Tell them why you believe students should be allowed to use the preponderance of evidence standard, just like faculty and staff currently do. To find out who your MSA representative is, go here; and for MSA executive committee member’s  contact information, go here.
  • Attend the next MSA meeting on Tuesday, December 8th at 7:30pm at MSA office, 3rd floor of the Union. Even though MSA already endorsed this proposal in September before submitting it to the Student Relations Advisory Committee of SACUA (the faculty governance body), that committee just asked MSA to re-review the proposal and decide again whether or not to endorse it. Show MSA that sutdents want this proposal to be approved. Bring a friend along and carry signs of your support.

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