I’m happy to see that the Nexus is paying attention to the extension of University jurisdiction over harmful student behavior. It’s an important issue, and I hope the paper’s interest will inspire all members of the UCSB community to think and talk about it. As the coordinator of the Rape Prevention Education Program, I’d like to offer my view of this extension.
One of the offenses covered is sexual assault. It’s true that sexual assault is also a violation of California law. Here’s some more truth. The majority of sexual assaults that happen in our community occur in Isla Vista, are committed by someone the survivor knows (and someone the same race), involve the use of alcohol, and are confusing and humiliating, in addition to being extreme violations of trust and bodily integrity. These factors, and others, make it difficult for the survivor to report the crime to law enforcement.
What the University process offers is another option. It’s much more confidential, although not exactly secret. It gives the accuser (and the accused) a certain amount of anonymity as they go about their daily lives. This makes a huge difference for someone thinking about reporting a rape or trying to take some action. In a world where ignorant statements and judgmental attitudes about sexual assault surround us, this offer of confidentiality is an acknowledgment of reality. It is not a parallel legal system. The sanctions do not include jail or registration as a sex offender. Someone expelled from UCSB can transfer to another school and no one will ever know why. That’s all some survivors want. They want to live without the constant fear of seeing their assailant. They want to be able to walk into the UCen without dread or walk into a new class relaxed.
It’s an option and one I believe we owe to survivors. This is why: sexual assaults are perpetrated mostly against young women, mostly by young men, mostly in situations of trust, and quite often when one or both people are intoxicated. Young men, young women, trust and alcohol are common facets of college life. Therefore, we have a population and an environment in which this problem occurs. Whether or not a survivor chooses to report to the student conduct system, the fact that it exists indicates awareness of the problem and an attempt to address it.
Although I have always been in favor of this extension, I am painfully aware that it is a limited, even minor, attempt to impact a really big problem. Social problems as complex as rape cannot be solved solely through law or rules and regulations. They must be addressed in a variety of ways, including the law, education, and ultimately, the desire and will of the community.
Sexual assault is a difficult crime to adjudicate. For the past three years, Students Stopping Rape has conducted a mock hearing during Spring Quarter based on the student conduct system. The mock hearing has been an opportunity to see publicly how a real hearing might work. Participants and audience have left those mock hearings with more questions than answers. This is the place student energy could do some good. If all of us are thinking about this, maybe some of us can come up with ideas to make it better.
In response to the editorial complaint that students were sucker-punched because the final decision to extend jurisdiction was made in August, I want to point out that I have been at UCSB for six years. The idea of extending jurisdiction was being discussed long before I arrived and has continued throughout the time I’ve been here. I personally have spoken to several hundred students about the proposal, urging them to think about pros and cons, urging them to think about what they want in a community and how they want to make that vision happen. I have been quoted in numerous Nexus articles about this since 1996.
The perceived deception about the way the administration enacted this procedure is not the problem. The problem is that large numbers of the student population are harassed and assaulted on a daily or weekly basis by other students. The problem is that we, as a community, have not committed our will and intellectual rigor to pursuing solutions to this problem. The Nexus editorial noted the just motives behind this extension. I hope the Nexus and the University community will keep those motives in mind as we continue our discussions.
Students Stopping Rape meets every Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the Women’s Center. Come talk about this.
Carol Mosely is UCSB’s Rape Prevention Education Program coordinator.