Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Tuesday, June 25, 2019 — Houston, TX 84°

Editorial: Rice must publicly oppose proposed sexual assault guidelines

By Thresher Editorial Board     9/4/18 10:46pm

Proposed changes to federal education policy obtained by the New York Times would allow universities to lessen their responsibility in handling cases of sexual assault.

President David Leebron should release a statement indicating Rice’s commitment to upholding its current policies regarding sexual assault. Such a statement would fall in line with his previous statements denouncing the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program and declaring that Rice would opt out of campus carry. A public statement would not only reassure the student body but would also encourage other universities to stand in solidarity and oppose these potential changes.

Rice is currently reevaluating the practices of Student Judicial Programs. While our current system isn’t perfect, adopting the proposed guidelines would be a step in the wrong direction.



The current sexual misconduct reporting system, which meets Obama administration guidelines, requires a “preponderance of the evidence” to convict. According to the Legal Information Institute, “preponderance of the evidence” means “more than 50 percent of the evidence points to something.” The proposed guidelines would allow schools to require “clear and convincing evidence,” a higher standard requiring the evidence to be “highly and substantially more likely to be true than untrue.” While a high burden of proof is appropriate in the criminal justice system, we consider SJP more similar to a civil court, in which preponderance of the evidence is a common standard. The guidelines would also allow universities to opt out of having an appeals process — currently, students can appeal cases to the dean of undergraduates.

The proposed policies also do not mandate that universities investigate claims of sexual misconduct that happen off campus. Obama administration guidelines required that universities investigate all reported assaults, on or off campus. By maintaining the current sexual misconduct reporting system, the university can continue to demonstrate that its culture of care does not cease to exist beyond the hedges.

We are further concerned by the proposed option for universities to let those accused of sex crimes cross-examine their accusers as part of university judicial proceedings. This would discourage reporting — an already arduous process which forces survivors to relive the worst moments of their lives.

The proposed changes would place a far greater burden on victims of sexual assault. Through a public statement, Leebron can make clear Rice’s commitment to upholding standards of reporting that align with our culture of care.



More from The Rice Thresher

NEWS 5/28/19 10:14am
Provost Miranda to step down, return to faculty role

 Provost Marie Lynn Miranda announced that she will be stepping down from her role as provost, a position she has held for the last four years, at the end of June, in an email sent last Sunday. Miranda will go on sabbatical for the 2019-2020 academic year, after which she plans on reassuming her faculty position in the department of statistics, according to Miranda’s email. Her decision follows the diagnosis of her youngest child with cancer last year.

NEWS 5/11/19 4:26pm
Graduation 2019: Rain distracts but fails to disrupt

Class of 2019 graduates came to Saturday morning’s commencement with their caps, gowns, stoles and umbrellas. Despite forecasted downpours and the proposed alternative venue of Tudor Fieldhouse, both Friday and Saturday ceremonies were held outside. Like their matriculation ceremony four years ago, the graduates saw rain fall as they were granted their degrees. 

NEWS 5/10/19 11:07am
Martel College senior Muna Uzodike to speak at graduation

“I truly believe we find our unique purpose in that space, because no one can be copied to the T,” Uzodike said. “We have a lot to bring to the table and I just want to remind people that no matter what space they find themselves in, they should never abandon the traits, gifts or skills that make them unique.”


Comments

Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.