I read about this issue in this morning’s New York Times. As an alumnus who makes financial donations to Oxy, I want to understand the situation before I stop making my contributions.
The articles on this issue do not state whether or not the police were notified by the woman who was assaulted. Since there is an allegation of a crime, it is the primary responsibility of the police to deal with it. Oxy can certainly inform the students that a particular student was assaulted by a particular person, but Oxy risks serious legal problems if the complaint turns out to be false. It is the court’s business to determine this issue. Of course, Oxy can make general statements about safety without risking a false accusation. The last time I was on campus, there were already signs about avoiding sexual assault, and I assume that all of the students understand the warning.
Thanks, Paul, for reaching out. Rape is a crime and sexual assault is a serious felony. In the most recent case, the police were notified/involved. There’s been a lot of debate over whether or not schools should act as their own investigators, judges, and juries in handling of sexual assault cases, particularly given the vast underreporting of sexual assault (to the police) and schools’ routine mishandling of such as cases (as evidenced by the number of schools mentioned in that NY Times piece).
Here’s another NY Times article that weighs the terms of this important debate: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/03/12/why-should-colleges-judge-rape-accusations
For reporting, OSAC is just asking for Oxy to follow the federal Clery guidelines/laws for reporting sexual misconduct and for treating rape as a serious crime.
To be clear, in requesting campus-wide reports, we are not asking for names or other personally identifiable details (as this would violate federal privacy laws). We simply wish that the Administration would provide an alert (as it does for much lesser property crimes) that “a report has been made about a sexual assault” as “there is great benefit in reporting all campus crimes because they inform students of their surroundings, signal what crimes the campus takes seriously, and may ultimately shift our campus culture away from silencing survivors.” You can read more in our Open Letter to President Veitch found here: http://oxysexualassaultcoalition.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/an-open-letter-to-president-jonathan-veitch/
Thank you for your note!
I am an alumni of Oxy (1993) who continues to contribute to the school and can imagine my daughter attending in a few years if she wishes…I was the co-chair of a group called Feminist Consciousness Coalition. We also filed a title IX complaint to the Dept of Education/Office for Civil rights, regarding sexual harassment and the misogyny rife at that time in the campus fraternity system. The school was found to be in part violation of law in regards to our complaint and improved the sexual harassment policy as a result. I was also a ‘student advocate’ for a classmate who had been raped and remember well the many failings of that strange idea to prosecute such an allegation. I am sad yet not surprised that 20 years on we continue to face many of the same structural barriers to women’s safety and gender equity. If there are things alumni might to do support your coalition, let me know and I can let my other alumni friends know in turn. As we were preceded by strong women and allied men in our struggles, so are you now.
Hi Deevy, Thanks so much for your note. We were aware of some major issues in 1993 but not the full extent of it.
We’ve posted your comment here: http://oxysexualassaultcoalition.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/osacs-title-ix-complaint-wont-be-a-first-at-occidental-college/
and on our Facebook page (where it’s received nearly 50 immediate ‘likes’) here: http://www.facebook.com/osacoalition.
Thank you so much for sharing and we will certainly keep you updated. Also, THANK YOU for the work of the Feminist Consciousness Coalition in paving the way for OSAC and so many other allies and student, faculty, and staff advocates on our campus today.
Will OSAC consider a FAQ page? This site, like much of the coverage surrounding this emotionally charged issue, leaves several critical questions unanswered:
1. None would disagree that a student *proven* to have assaulted or raped other another student should be expelled, after which the victims should seek further justice in criminal court. Oxy’s actions, in the cited instances where it has *confirmed* the guilt of the accused, are appallingly inadequate. The dean of students who attempted to dissuade students from speaking out should be summarily dismissed. As OSAC has noted, a radical revision of existing policies, together with the vigorous enforcement of Title IX, is long overdue.
BUT as a free-speech fundamentalist and civil libertarian, I, and I suspect many alumni like me, wonder how OSAC proposes claims of assault and/or rape should be investigated. What evidence should be required to prove—or disprove—the guilt of the accused. In short, how can we insure that the guilty answer for their crimes while at the same time insuring that due process is observed and the unjustly accused aren’t punished for crimes they didn’t commit?
Consider the following:
* Some of the accounts posted under SURVIVOR STORIES mention being “blackout drunk” when the alleged events occurred; how can we know that the alleged victim’s memory is reliable?
* Moreover, in the press conference with Gloria Allred, one young woman said she’d been raped but didn’t even know it until a year later, when a friend at a more enlightened school (I’m quoting from memory) made her see the light. How can one not know one is being raped, unless we’re defining rape, here, as something other than non-consensual penetrative sex? Are we? If so, that, too, would be helpful to know, given the fog of war surrounding the issues of rape and sexual harassment.
* And speaking of fog, terms such as “the sexual assault epidemic” and “rape culture” are as imprecise as they are needlessly inflammatory in this case. How many assaults does it take to make an epidemic? Is OSAC referring to American culture at large, or Occidental in specific?
* If OSAC believes sex assault is “epidemic” at Oxy, can it cite any evidence-driven studies to support its assertion that X rapes or X assaults per year makes an “epidemic”? To be sure, *any* assaults and *any* rapes are utterly repugnant, and should be the subject of prompt and vigorous investigation. And *if* the data confirms that there is, in fact, an epidemic of assault and rape at Oxy, then the causes of what may then, and only then, be called “a rape culture” should be pulled up by the roots.
* (Parenthetically, the presence of Gloria Allred, whose appetite for self-promotion and whose association with tabloid-friendly cases is well-known, is not reassuring to those of us who want to see justice done, but not at the cost of a careful review of the facts and a sober inquiry into the cultural climate at Oxy. Her presence is inevitably polarizing; I regret that OSAC couldn’t have found an equally capable, equally feminist, yet less sensationalist attorney.)
TO SUM UP, asserting that most victims who claim to be raped prove, in the end, to have been raped (“Statistics show that there is no reason to think that s/he is lying about having been abused.” – ALLIES page); suggesting that friends don’t ask friends for objective proof of serious allegations, but rather accept all such claims on faith “(It might be very difficult for your friend to tell you their experience, so it is essential to their healing process that you believe them.”), sets a dangerous precedent.
Obviously, rape is difficult to prove; the victim may have no material evidence or witnesses, and may be too traumatized to provide a clear account of precisely what happened.
But lobbying for a system where the accused are presumed guilty until proven innocent because, well, “a sexual assault epidemic” makes it more likely than not that the accused is guilty, and furthermore “statistics show that there is no reason to think that [the accuser] is lying about having been abused,” is irresponsible in the extreme and, potentially corrosive to any sense of community at Oxy. Most important, the mindset implicit in the approach suggested on the ALLIES page is contrary to the core values Oxy and other liberal-arts schools attempt to instill, among them the conviction that we live in a fact-based reality, not a faith-based one, and the belief that justice for victims shouldn’t be purchased at the cost of the rights of the accused.
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