We fully support the Columbia University College Democrats’ petition for more transparency about sexual assault on campus. The group’s proposal identifies some of the major issues and offers solutions, but there are still other systemic issues which the proposal does not raise, and we implore the University to tackle these immediately.
To be sure, the release of data regarding the number of cases reported, the number of cases addressed judicially, and the different resolutions for each case will increase transparency. However, making these statistics available will not prevent sexual assault, nor will it make the process of reporting assault any easier; it is only the beginning of a solution.
We ask the University to clarify the definition of sexual assault, ensuring that there is no confusion about what exactly constitutes sexual assault. We recommend following the example established by Yale’s University-Wide Committee on Sexual Assault. The committee compiled an array of scenarios depicting sexual encounters between students and unambiguously presenting what the university’s punishment would be. Despite their simplicity, Yale’s scenarios are clear and effective at imparting information about sexual assault policy.
Furthermore, we are skeptical about how helpful the Dems’ proposal to release an “estimated number of incidents” would be. Estimates could misrepresent the figure by overestimating it, or downplay the problem by underestimating the number of assaults. We should stay firmly in the realm of facts.
But it’s clear that sexual assault is far more prevalent than the number of reported incidents would suggest. In order to narrow this gap, the University must improve the safety of the reporting process and streamline the judicial procedure. Too many students are deterred by the difficulty of the process, with its many complicated stages needed to report a sexual assault incident. Additionally, the dearth of information creates uncertainty, which makes reporting even more daunting. The University has a responsibility to make the reporting process safe and efficient, in part by publicizing the policy’s specifics.
The administration might prefer to maintain low sexual assault numbers by not fixing these problems and thereby keeping its reputation pristine. If this is the case, we strongly disagree. The emotional and psychological harm that Columbia’s broken judicial system brings upon victims of sexual assault must be taken seriously. Furthermore, the University would only bolster its reputation by boldly tackling these issues instead of pretending that sexual assault is not a campus issue. We all know that it is.
Our University has a long way to go in the quest to eliminate sexual assault from our campus. The CU Dems have proposed several key suggestions that we strongly encourage the University to adapt, but we hope the other ideas we have outlined will help effect a more thorough policy change.
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