The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday April 12th

Assault sanction talks progress, task force suggests punishments be open-ended

Members decided Tuesday that open-ended sanctions should be used where a panel decides the level of punishment based on the degree of the offense. They also decided that professionals should sit on the groups that decide sanctions.

Title IX Coordinator Howard Kallem said if a responding party, or the person accused of sexual assault, has a history of previous cases, how those cases were handled can provide the panel with precedent in making sanction decisions.

“We do need to give the decision-makers the ability to consider all the factors,” he said.

Some members raised questions about the open-ended policy.

Undergraduate Student Attorney General Anna Sturkey said she was concerned that an open-ended policy might not satisfy the needs of survivors.

“Something that people want to know when they report sexual assault is that they want to be taken seriously,” she said.

Gina Smith, an attorney hired by UNC last year who specializes in sexual assault cases and attended Tuesday’s meeting, said there are advantages to not creating a uniform sanctioning code.

“There are some reporting parties that will say a mandatory sanction would have prevented me from coming forward,” she said.

But Smith cautioned against using a reporting party’s case history to determine guilt, saying intent cannot be assessed using evidence from past offenses.

The task force also focused on the personnel involved in the sanctioning processes, namely the panel, or body of people who will consider sanctions.

Christi Hurt, chairwoman of the task force and director of the Carolina Women’s Center, suggested decreasing the size of the panel.

“We’re talking about training up to and throughout service,” she said. “We shouldn’t be afraid to ask about what we need as well in terms of resources.”

Sturkey said she supported the idea of having fewer members on the task force to increase professionalism.

“I like the model of having three specific people who this is their job ... to fully dedicate themselves to all of those things,” she said.

The task force agreed that attracting people to serve on the panel might require an incentive, though Kallem said this might pose a problem.

“We ran (incentives) through our vice chancellor, and she and others had expressed that there are other hearing procedures throughout the University who have volunteers and that paying people would set a precedent for these other hearings to have paid positions.”

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