In the spring of 2015 Stanford University began enforcing the Report of Provost’s Task Force on Sexual Assault Policies and Practices, which makes expulsion the recommended punishment for students found responsible of sexual assault.
Although Stanford expelling a student for his or her first sexual violence offense may seem extreme, it is necessary for educational institutions to make strong efforts to prevent sexual violence especially since it is prominent in the college culture.
The Campus Sexual Assault Study conducted for the Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice found that one in five women on college campuses in the United States have been sexually assaulted.
Stanford expeling students responsible of violent sexual acts sets the tone that the university will not stand for this vicious behavior in their campus community and that they support and stand behind victims of sexual assault.
Benjy Mercer-Golden, a senior at Stanford who served on the task force that drafted the report, said in an interview with Palo Alto Online that the Stanford student body was pushing for sexual assault policy change.
“Sexual assault seems to me to be the ultimate expression of conduct that would be sufficient cause for removal from the University—it is one of the most serious forms of interpersonal violence one can commit and a deep violation of the mutual respect community members must uphold,” Mercer-Golden said.
University student governments across the nation should follow in Stanford’s footsteps and cry out for universities to create policies that ensure consequences for those who violate other student’s rights.
These policies would set a strong foundation for victims to know they are attending a safe institution that stands behind them during a difficult time of recovery.
California Lutheran University Psychology professor Amy Johansson said removing the student found responsible of sexual assault would be beneficial to the victim’s recovery because the victim would not have to be constantly reminded of the traumatic event by seeing the student around campus.
“Sexual assault can lead to extreme trauma and may cause psychological damage to an individual for life. This type of victimization could lead to low self-esteem, insecurity, feelings of anger, depression and, in some cases, severe psychopathology like the development of [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] or other mental disorders,” Johansson said.
Dr. Virginia Maril, a psychologist who works at California Lutheran University’s Counseling Services, said that if the victim has to face their perpetrator on campus then the victim will not feel safe, and it could be potentially detrimental to their life goals.
“They are going to feel scared on campus. They might stop attending class which is going to impact their career and their educational goals long-term,” Maril said.
Professor Kenneth Weitz, an English professor at California Lutheran University with a law degree, said that political pressure is one of the main reasons universities are cracking down on sexual assault policies.
“The federal government from the highest level, the president on down, has been making sexual assault on campuses a national political issue,” Weitz said.
In 2014 President Barack Obama launched the “It’s On Us” campaign, which encourages people to personally commit to becoming actively involved in preventing sexual assault on college campuses.
According to whitehouse.gov, the “It’s On Us” initiative sends resources that help prevent and respond to sexual violence to all schools that receive federal funding. “It’s On Us” is also reviewing existing legislation to ensure the individuals who have been sexually assaulted rights are protected.
“For anybody whose once-normal, everyday life was suddenly shattered by an act of sexual violence, the trauma, the terror can shadow you long after one horrible attack … It’s there when you’re forced to sit in the same class or stay in the same dorm with the person who raped you,” President Obama said in his 2014 “It’s On Us” campaign launch speech at the White House.
The statistic that 20 percent of women are sexually assaulted while attending a college university, according to the Washington Post, is too high. In order for this number to be lowered, colleges across the nation need to follow in President Obama’s and Stanford’s footsteps to take a stand that sexual assault will not be tolerated on college campuses.
Published May 6th, 2015