SFHB Experiments with Investigation Process
By Paul Lagarde In a recent turn of events, the University has begun allowing advisors to participate in the investigative process of Student Faculty Hearing Board cases. Until just a short while ago, advisors, including student Honor Advocates, attorneys, and parents, could only become involved once the actual disciplinary proceeding began. While there are still many problems inherent with such a board as the SFHB, this move by the University represents a welcome step in the right direction.
According to Title IX Director Lauren Kozak, the move was made as a result of the University's effort to gather input from the community before the Board of Trustees votes on a new policy for sexual misconduct at W&L, possibly as early as this summer. "As part of that review process, we are currently considering several changes to the Policy. One of those changes is allowing advisors to participate during the investigation rather than when disciplinary proceedings begin," Kozak told The Spectator.
While it is still unclear at this point whether advisors will retain their involvement in the investigative process once the new policy takes effect, the significance of this move should not be underestimated. At the very least, this represents an openness to change on the University's part, a willingness to admit that past practices, considered shadowy and unfair by many, are perhaps not the best way to properly adjudicate matters of sexual assault.
In an article in our March issue, I argued that it is the police, not universities, that are best suited to handle cases of rape. I still stand by my position in this article, as I believe it is absurd for someone determined to be a rapist to be simply dismissed from school, rather than put in jail, for what is normally regarded in the outside world as a violent crime. In perpetuating a system where universities - to the exclusion of law enforcement - handle cases of rape, we fall into allowing sexual predators to move on to another target, albeit in a different community than before.
Ultimately, as I stated in my previous article, I believe the solution to this problem is rooted in humility, in realizing that a university cannot fix every problem itself, that it cannot be all things to all people. Any lasting solution will involve a move towards encouraging rape victims to report to law enforcement, as well as an encouragement of law enforcement to be more accommodating towards rape victims in their policies. Nevertheless, by allowing advisors their deserved role in the investigation process, the University is demonstrating, even if on just a small scale, a necessary humility towards arriving at an equitable solution for all.