University News

U. implements sexual assault proposals

University to conduct campus-wide culture survey, hire investigators to collect evidence

By and
Senior Staff Writer and University News Editor
Friday, January 23, 2015

In response to the Task Force on Sexual Assault’s interim report released Dec. 17, the University has enacted major reforms to address sexual assault policy, wrote President Christina Paxson P’19 in a community-wide email Thursday. The new measures mandate that the appeals process last less than 30 days, that all community members undergo regular sexual assault training and that students found responsible for sexual misconduct and sanctioned with separation from Brown leave their campus residences immediately.

Paxson assembled a working group led by Vice President for Academic Development, Diversity and Inclusion Liza Cariaga-Lo to implement the report’s recommendations.

Almost all of the reforms recommended in the interim report have now been implemented, said Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, adding that widespread community input spurred administrators to execute the report’s “high-priority” recommendations.

Carey said it is “premature” to evaluate Brown’s updated policies relative to those of its peers in terms of leadership on sexual assault reform, noting that many American universities’ policies on the matter are currently in flux.

The reforms Paxson announced in Thursday’s email center on increasing the availability and clarity of sexual assault resources, updating case procedures and boosting transparency regarding cases’ final decisions.
As recommended by the task force, a new sexual misconduct and Title IX website was created, Paxson wrote. The site includes links to resources for those who have been sexually assaulted or who wish to report an incident, she wrote.

Content on the Office of Student Life’s sexual misconduct site was updated to reflect new University policies. Additionally, new flow-charts explaining the actions taken by the University and students in sexual misconduct cases have been placed on the site and will be updated throughout the semester, Paxson wrote.

The University will provide annual mandatory training programs for all students, faculty members and staff members. The timing and details of who will administer the training remain undecided, Carey said.

This new mandatory training marks a substantial improvement on previous protocol, under which attendance was only mandatory for undergraduates during first-year orientation and was not strictly enforced, he said.

The University will provide funds to cover the costs of implementing the training sessions, Paxson wrote. It will also create a discretionary fund to allow Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, to allocate the appropriate personal and medical resources to complainants and respondents.

The interim report suggested the University regularly collect data to monitor the campus climate surrounding sexual assault. To provide a baseline for data in the future, the University will administer a survey drafted by the American Association of Universities to undergraduates, graduate students and medical students over a three-week period between early April and mid-May, Carey said.

Paxson is “committed” to making the results of the survey known to the Brown community, he said, adding that those results will most likely be released in the fall.

To alleviate the trauma students involved in sexual assault cases may experience, the appeals process must now end within 30 days of an appeal request, Paxson wrote. The University will also share appeals made by one party with all other involved parties.

A student support dean from the OSL and an academic dean from the dean of the College office will be assigned to assist both complainants and respondents, Paxson wrote.

The University will play a more active role in providing students with the guidance they need to navigate the difficulties of coursework during the time-consuming hearing process, Carey said.

“It’s not that you can go see dean X in her office hours, but that we want you to see dean X and we’ll make it happen,” he added.

Failure to comply with any measures taken between reporting and the trial, such as a no-contact order, will prompt an immediate response, such as removal from or limited access to campus.

To ensure hearings are unbiased and “less traumatic to students,” the University will hire trained investigators to gather evidence and create a report that will be used as case materials.

This practice is common among peer institutions, Carey said.

Justice Gaines ’16, one of four undergraduate representatives on the task force, voiced concerns about the role of investigators potentially unfamiliar with Brown in the hearing process.

“The changes seem to be going further for the investigation model than we had even suggested,” Gaines said. Investigators should receive “Brown-centric” training so they understand the campus culture, he said, adding that training could also familiarize investigators with issues of race, gender and sexuality relevant to many students.

But while details of the training have yet to be determined, the sessions will probably not focus on culture specific to College Hill, Carey said. It is most important that investigators have experience working on college campuses, and any training they receive related to Brown will probably be conveyed through the OSL and the Office of Institutional Diversity, he added.

In addition to an updated statement listing the rights and responsibilities of students involved in sexual assault cases, both parties in future cases will be given copies of the Student Conduct Board’s memorandum of findings and their decision letters, Paxson wrote.

“The idea is to provide greater transparency regarding the findings of the Student Conduct Board — not just a yes, no, responsible, not responsible,” Carey said. Detailed explanations of the reasons for the board’s decisions were previously administered to students inconsistently and often not in writing, he said.

Students found responsible for sexual misconduct whose sanction includes separation from Brown will be immediately removed from on-campus housing and limited in their on-campus activities during an appeals process, Paxson wrote.

The University has also clarified that the period of separation decided in a hearing will not include the semester during which the case is heard, Paxson wrote.

With an earlier deadline for suspended students to petition for their returns to campus, complainants will be notified sooner about a respondent’s possible return, Paxson wrote.

Gaines said the University should specify that complainants will be notified early enough to decide whether to take a leave of absence when the respondent returns.

The intent of pushing up the deadline was to provide complainants with adequate time, Carey said, though he added that it remains to be seen whether the University will be able to implement a rule universally applicable to all cases.

18 Comments

  1. To ensure hearings are unbiased and “less traumatic to students,” the University will hire trained investigators to gather evidence and create a report that will be used as case materials.

    Will the accused also be allowed to hire it’s own investigators and create case material?

  2. It’s clear that Brown’s attempt to create a parallel structure to the American legal structure falls far short of providing the types of protections that our students–both victims and suspected criminals–are due.

    Rather than re-create a legal system (police, prosecutors, courts) that has been honed for over 200 years, wouldn’t it make more sense to work in partnership with the legal system as it exists today?

    This proposal violates both the rights of victims and suspected criminals. Cristina Paxson should reconsider this ill-conceived, incomplete and inadequate method to deal with crime on campus.

    • “wouldn’t it make more sense to work in partnership with the legal system as it exists today?” No, man, don’t you get it?!?!? The legal system is patriarchal, racist and heteronormative. You cannot partner with it.

      • Wow–heteronormative! I live in San Francisco and Santa Fe, two of the most “homonormative” cities in the US.
        You must see that Brown’s attempts to recreate a “justice system” fail on protecting the most fundamental rights of both victim and accused. Rather than create an ersatz kangaroo court, why not rely on those who have done it for hundreds of years.
        If you don’t think that the victim or suspect are being handled correctly in the criminal justice system, hire lawyers and fight the case.
        Rape is too important to be left to amateur prosecutors, judges and juries.

    • Everything from Paxson is not so much ill-conceived as it is just not conceived at all. Therefore any of this has zero chance of getting done. We should get rid of her.

    • This is required by Title IX, that is why they are doing it.

      • Of course it is. But is creating a kangaroo judge, jury and prosecutor the ONLY way to go?
        Why can’t Brown work with local REAL judges, juries and prosecutors to provide REAL justice?
        Brown is clearly out of its depth here.

        • Lonergan is out of his depth. says:

          Forcing victims into the state legal process is not helping them if they’re not ready to deal with that yet (or ever). If the victim chooses, for their own reasons, to not pursue criminal charges, the University has no other means under your proposal for dealing with the perpetrator and ensuring the victim’s safety and well-being. This is unacceptable.

          • Lonergan is actually right on the money. You’ve drunk the Kool-Aid.

            Your proposal is bogus. The premise is that the victim doesn’t want to press charges, but wants the accused to be gotten rid of. That’s a glaring contradiction. You don’t get to install ad-hoc extra-judicial witch trials because you don’t like the justice system. Maybe if we lived in Gotham we could call Batman, but we live in the real world.

            Speaking of the real world, where the hell else does this happen? Does Google hold internal corporate trials? Does Stop & Shop? Does Macy’s do this? No, in the real world, you go to the police when you’re violated by a felon.

            Another dimension of stupidity – what other crimes get this special treatment? Will Brown begin holding hearings determining the fate of muggers and bicycle thieves?

            But hey, people have tried this – does it work? Let’s examine other institutions that have their own “internal” investigations. How is the Vatican doing? Penn State? Do you even know what a conflict of interest is?

            If the victim is not “ready” to deal with the judicial process, we should provide support for helping the victims. It is a complete betrayal of justice to do otherwise. The accused have rights that are crucial – you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. If this is unacceptable, I propose you move to a less civilized nation.

          • Thanks for a well-reasoned and to-the-point argument. I would love to hear such cogency from those that believe that Brown is right to create a parallel, amateur justice system.

          • So smug, yet so ignorant says:

            Your proposal is bogus. The premise is that the victim doesn’t want to press charges, but wants the accused to be gotten rid of. That’s a glaring contradiction.

            Thank you for explaining that you’ve never spoken to a rape victim.

            Many victims already know that the criminal justice system is essentially incapable of imprisoning rapists based on how few ever are, and how poorly it handles victims. They may choose not to put themselves through the trauma of that process for zero gain.

            That said, the victim has a right to feel safe at school, and should not have to remove themselves from school in order to achieve that. They didn’t do anything wrong. The college/University in question has the right as a private institution, and indeed a responsibility, to try to achieve that end.

            The university judicial process attempts to do just that. It’s not perfect, and never has been- just like the criminal justice system (just ask a #blacklivesmatter protester). Some are better than others, and I would say that most are/have been improving over the last several years. The Title IX suits currently ongoing will definitely speed that process.

            Another dimension of stupidity – what other crimes get this special treatment?

            Looking at the Student Life website, I’d say things underage possession of alcohol,. vandalism, stealing, cheating, all the way up to physical assaults.

            The accused have rights that are crucial – you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. If this is unacceptable, I propose you move to a less civilized nation

            Not at a private university. The accused has all the rights said institution chooses to grant them. And believe me, Brown gives you far more than most. If this is unacceptable, I propose you not sign the student conduct policy and move back home.

            Way to go, George Bush.

          • FWIW: An indictment/arrest is a lower burden of proof than a university conduct hearing and still shows up on a background check (whereas institutional action might not require disclosure).

          • Bling Justin says:

            Thank you Chris Paxson, but that is just another one of your lame-arsed excuses, for everything.

  3. TheRationale says:

    In order to combat bike theft, faculty, administrators, and students will undergo mandatory bike theft prevention training.

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