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Sunday May 16th

Sexual assault task force talks sanctions

As members of the Sexual Assault Task Force begin their discussion of sanctioning — the latest phase of policy reconstruction — they’ve amped up their meeting frequency.

The members will meet weekly this month as they rewrite the University’s policies on "sexual assault":http://www.dailytarheel.com/section/sexual-assault-on-college-campuses . Currently, the members are working through several different drafts of the policy.

Gina Smith, an outside attorney specializing in sexual assault cases who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said some schools have taken on less effective sanctioning measures. Others, such as Duke University, have chosen to use the option of expulsion for students found guilty of sexual assault.

“There have been some nightmare sanctions, like writing a paper,” she said. “We want to understand what the purpose of that type of sanction would be and ... whether that is appropriate.”

Several members said sanctions should be tailored to the offense.

But Title IX Compliance Coordinator Howard Kallem said the group should use caution in doing so because the policy addresses discrimination in other areas, such as gender or race.

“What is the message when there are different punishments for different kinds of discrimination?” he said.

Members talked about classifying sanctions by several criteria such as penetrative versus non-penetrative and the deliberateness of the act.

Bob Pleasants, interpersonal violence prevention coordinator for UNC Student Wellness, said the idea of determining sanctions based on intent made him uncomfortable because a common defense for assaults is they were not deliberate.

Smith raised another concern, saying that the sanctioning body should not rehash evidence presented in the prior investigation. She said the sanctioning body’s focus should not be on a mathematical certainty of guilt.

“Without confidence in the system, there is a danger in having the sanctioning body second guess the lower process,” she said.

There are other areas that also remain murky to task force members — one being a policy enacted by the state earlier this fall, which allowed students the right to an attorney.

UNC lobbied against the law, the first of its kind in the country, because administrators were worried it would make proceedings more punitive than educational and disadvantage low income students.

“Attorneys have the ability to fully participate in the process. They have the same right in the hearings as the parties. That attorney has the same ability as the party they represent,” said Kara Simmons, associate university counsel.

George Hare, deputy chief of UNC’s Department of Public Safety, asked for more details about the role of lawyers in the grievance committees but did not receive many answers from the task force.

“There’s no cross examination, but there has to be some presentation,” he said. “I’m trying to get a picture of what this really looks like.”

university@dailytarheel.com

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