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The Undergraduate Council of Students: Echoing the need for sexual assault policy change

On the night of Oct. 17, two female Brown University students reported receiving a spiked drink at an unregistered fraternity party, and one of the two women reported being sexually assaulted later that night after leaving the party. In recent weeks, students standing in solidarity with the two women have expressed concern and frustration toward the University’s handling of this case. These students have formed a campus movement, Act4RJ, which recently published a list of demands for the University, intending to seek justice for both the particular women involved in this case and all survivors of sexual violence at Brown.

As the Undergraduate Council of Students, it is our responsibility to hold the University accountable for ensuring a safe and secure environment for all its students. We are committed to shaping institutional policies that foster a positive campus climate for all.

Our response to the aforementioned demands is grounded in our desire for lasting, institutional change in the way Brown handles cases of sexual misconduct. Act4RJ has put forward a list of specific actions Brown can take to improve our sexual assault adjudication policies, and we are endorsing several of these measures. Moreover, we believe the following policy changes are vital recommendations that should be immediately integrated into the work done by the Task Force on Sexual Assault.

The Student Code of Conduct should be amended to include the administration of a date-rape drug as an act of sexual misconduct.

All interviews conducted by the Department of Public Safety should be recorded and transcribed on all occasions to avoid mistakes.

The University should provide legal guidance for both complainants and respondents involved in a hearing process. Also, a neutral actor should be present in meetings between the University’s general counsel and any legal representation from either respondents or complainants.

Anyone who sits on a Student Conduct Board panel or processes appeals should receive substantial training on the concept of consent. This includes students, faculty members, deans and provosts.

There should be a codified and clear definition of the minimum amount of evidence required for a hearing to proceed. When a decision is made to not proceed with evidence, the reasoning should be clearly provided to both the complainant(s) and the respondent(s).

Brown should provide students with access to professional, adequate date-rape drug testing that is considered admissible and the results of which Brown will support and stand behind in a hearing.

In cases where survivors are unable to provide a complete narrative due to memory loss, there should be a codified mechanism to address this narrative imbalance so that the hearing decision does not unfairly rely on the narrative of the respondent at the expense of the survivor.

Not all of the demands published by Act4RJ are listed above. Those additional demands speak further to the frustration and lack of trust students feel towards current policies and surrounding communication. As the administration reviews these concerns, we implore it to take all of these demands seriously. Some will require more long-term conversation, and it is critical that members of the Brown community on all levels — students, faculty members and staff members — engage with these ideas and vocalize their opinions.

Today’s protest serves as a powerful example of the community that Brown undergraduates can build. Over 400 students came together to demonstrate an active desire to shift campus culture and change University policy. The work of Act4RJ to mobilize student voices over the past couple of weeks is incredibly important as we identify ways to move forward as an entire campus. We hope that students continue to call for sustained dialogue and concrete solutions so that, together, we can ensure progress is achieved.

The Undergraduate Council of Students passed this statement unanimously at its March 11 general body meeting. Please contact to continue this conversation.



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