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Letter: The University should pledge to continue disciplinary proceedings for allegations of off-campus sexual misconduct

To the Editor: 

While the article “Title IX office talks impact of proposed federal guidelines” published Dec. 7 in The Herald points out legitimate concerns raised by the student body during the town hall, omitted from the discussion is the most important question students at Brown should be asking Title IX Program Officer Rene Davis: Will the University pledge to a to investigate and adjudicate complaints of rape and other sexual misconduct involving Brown students alleged to have occurred off-campus or in areas unaffiliated with the University? Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’ proposed rule removes any such requirement and leaves the decision to the discretion of academic institutions, including Brown University.

Every student and parent in Brown’s community should be outraged at the potential danger stemming from making these investigatory decisions discretionary. I have represented hundreds of complainants and respondents on campuses throughout the United States, including those at Brown. I can count on one hand the number of alleged rapes and other instances of sexual misconduct that I know occurred on campus because the majority are alleged to have occurred in privately owned off-campus housing, often within mere blocks of campus. Should justice be determined by a few Providence city blocks? If Brown’s goal is to work to maintain an educational environment free from hostility, Davis and the University must pledge to continue implementing disciplinary proceedings for allegations of off-campus misconduct. Focusing on whether cross-examination is appropriate is a worthwhile discussion, but first things first — procedure doesn’t matter if there is no process for resolving many of these very serious complaints.

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