How Colleges Handle Rape Charges

Judith Shulevitz is of course right that many schools are failing to handle reports of sexual violence appropriately. Yet her proposed answer — to integrate school proceedings with police reporting — would return us to the early days of coeducation, when women, despite their formal admittance to university life, faced unconscionable barriers to learning and thriving in the form of assault and harassment without meaningful recourse.

Title IX, which compels universities to respond to these issues, does not replace the criminal law but offers an additional option for students who need help staying in school after abuse. And these students overwhelmingly tell us that, were their schools to turn over their reports to the police, they would simply report the abuse to no one at all.

Fair process for the accused is a critical component of Title IX. Counter to Ms. Shulevitz’s representation, the Department of Education provides the most robust protections for students accused of sexual assault, more than classmates facing any other disciplinary charges. Let’s encourage schools to follow Title IX rather than destroy a safety net that many survivors of abuse or assault need to stay in school.




The writers are the founding co-directors of Know Your IX, a national student campaign against campus gender-based violence.

To the Editor:

The reason the government is mandating action against sexual assault on campus is that many schools have avoided acting on their own. When statistics show that the University of Virginia expelled 180 students for cheating since 1998 while none have been expelled for sexual assault in the school’s history, it is time to mandate a re-examination of the school’s policies. The University of Virginia does not stand alone.

Adjudication of sexual assault on a college or university campus is not a criminal trial; it is to determine if there is a violation of student conduct. Many victims don’t want to endure the stress and emotional impact of a criminal trial but have the right to be safe on campus.

Bullying, verbal harassment, drinking, vandalism and racism all fall under behaviors that schools address to make their campuses safe and productive places to learn. Sexual assault should be no different.


Arlington, Va.

The writer is executive director of Culture of Respect, an organization seeking to end campus sexual assaults.

To the Editor:

Re “Confusion About College Sexual Assault” (editorial, Feb. 8):

You accurately note the inadequacy of current data regarding sexual assault on American college campuses. The Association of American Universities Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, which will be administered by the research firm Westat to thousands of students on 28 university campuses in April, will help address this problem.

Our primary goal is to provide data to these universities that will inform their efforts to formulate policies and practices for keeping students safe and helping them to feel safe. In addition, we hope that the aggregate data, which Westat will analyze and we will make public later this year, will not only help government policy makers as they work on related legislation and administrative actions, but also make a significant contribution to the existing body of research in this important, complex field.



Association of American Universities