As UNC’s handling of sexual assault cases continues to be examined, Duke University has taken steps to toughen its own sanctioning in such cases — naming expulsion as the recommended punishment for perpetrators.
Duke Student Government President Stefani Jones said the change will affect only the panel that deals out sanctions for those students who have already been found guilty of sexual assault by Duke’s Office of Student Conduct.
She said the panel is not obligated to expel students under the new guidelines, but expulsion — rather than suspension — has become the standard punishment.
“What this change does is alter the standard sanction for sexual assault so that expulsion becomes the rule for perpetrators, rather than the exception,” Jones said.
“Panels can still decide to not expel a student if they are found responsible, but it would come under stricter scrutiny and could be subject to appeal to the Appellate Board.”
Christi Hurt, UNC’s interim Title IX coordinator, said there is nothing in the University’s current sexual assault policy that names a recommended punishment for assault cases.
She said the policy outlines a range of sanctions, including expulsion.
The Sexual Assault Task Force appointed in May has been working throughout the summer to make recommendations on revising the University’s sexual assault policy.
Hurt, chairwoman of the task force, said the group has not yet begun to discuss sanctions.
The task force was created in response to an ongoing sexual assault scandal that has brought on three federal investigations examining the University’s handling of sexual assault cases.
The investigations stem from three complaints. Two were filed in January by a group of five women — including then-sophomore Landen Gambill and former Assistant Dean of Students Melinda Manning — surrounding the University’s handling and reporting of sexual assault cases.
Gambill filed a third complaint in March, claiming that the University retaliated against her.
Larry Moneta, Duke’s vice president for student affairs, said the move from a standard punishment of suspension to expulsion was driven by student government, Duke’s Gender Violence Task Force and students.
Jones said Duke’s student government recognized sexual assault as a serious issue.
“Duke, like many campuses, has a huge problem with sexual assault,” she said.
“It’s not a problem that many people want to talk about, which often gives schools and administrators an incentive to sweep it under the rug.”
Christy Lambden, UNC’s student body president, said looking to other campuses may be helpful in addressing UNC’s sexual assault policies.
“Ultimately, the fix for those problems is going to happen here on campus,” he said.
“That being said, I think that there is valuable knowledge that can be gained from talking to other campuses, trying to figure out how exactly their sexual assault policies sit within their framework.”
Jones said this guideline change is just one of many changes that have been made on Duke’s campus in regard to sexual assault.
She said student efforts were also successful in repealing Duke’s statute of limitations on reporting cases, among other things. Previously, complainants of sexual assault had just one year to report the incident.
Hurt said UNC has no limitations on when students can report assault cases.
She said the task force will continue work this week.
“We can highlight our questions about where we think things should be going and trying to make sure we’re building a process moving forward that serves all of campus very well.”
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