While a nightmare to most students, those facing sexual assault charges from their universities can sleep well knowing they will probably never face real punishment. The Association for Student Conduct Administration (ASCA) has administered a set of guidelines for college campuses all over the nation to use when dealing with sexual assault cases. Unfortunately, they are more hurtful than helpful. In four cases reported just this year across three college campuses, students found guilty of sexual assault were not suspended or expelled from campus. Instead they received minor consequences like probation and educational sanctions. And why is that? The ASCA guidelines.
In the guidelines are a number of pieces of advice that college administrators are advised to take when dealing with sexual assault cases. The guidelines are as follows:
-Campus sexual assault hearings should be “educational” and “not punitive.”
-Colleges should not refer to sexual assault as “rape.”
-The school’s handling of sexual assault cases “should not mirror the criminal process.”
-Colleges should use the preponderance of evidence standard in sexual misconduct cases.
There are countless flaws in these guidelines, but the most obvious is that they are basically instructing college administrators to not punish students accused of sexual assault. Instead of holding perpetrators responsible for their criminal behavior (in case they forgot, rape is a criminal charge), they are told to use it as an educational opportunity to teach these students to not do it again. How are students supposed to learn the seriousness of their actions when they aren’t held to realistic expectations? By telling university courts to not use legalistic language like rape, defense, or guilty, we are taking the violating student out of the real world and letting them off unscathed. So instead of calling the offense for what it is, rape, universities are using phrases like “non-consensual sex,” which has rightly outraged students.
Apparently, the logic behind these guidelines is to focus and re-train the student and promote a deep-rooted change in the hopes that it will not happen again. The hopes of better decision-making is simply not enough in sexual assault cases because this person could potentially be a threat again. It’s estimated that less than 30% of students are expelled in response to a sexual assault charge, and that is just unacceptable.
There is no excuse for the unnecessary kindness being shown to these students. The bottom line is that rape is rape; no one told them that they had to do it. In no way is it anyone’s fault other than their own, and they should absolutely be held responsible for their actions. If a student can get immediately expelled for cheating on an exam, which in reality is only hurting themselves, how are students not getting expelled for sexually violating other students? I think it’s time for universities to thoroughly review their policies on sexual misconduct and to think of the potential consequences they will have if they are not holding perpetrators responsible for such malicious actions. College is supposed to be a safe environment to grow and learn. Students should not have to worry about whether or not their college is taking care of people who violate assault policies.