General Counsel Approves Revised Assault Policy
Feminist Collective marginalized
Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
The office of the general counsel has signed off on a revised sexual misconduct policy for The New School, overhauling how it deals with sexual assaults and rapes on campus. Approval by the board of trustees is the only obstacle remaining before The New School officially adopts the revamped policy. The students who played such a pivotal role in the drafting of the new guidelines, however, were excluded from the general counsel’s review process.
The Feminist Collective, a student group at The New School, has collaborated with Student Services since October in proposing a series of changes to the university’s existing sexual assault policy. In January, they submitted a 20-page draft to administrators, which was then edited down to a shorter five-page version. The student group reviewed the condensed policy before it was sent on to the general counsel for legal review in late February.
The Feminist Collective hoped to be involved in the general counsel’s revision process, but the administration opted for a less-transparent deliberation of the document.
New School administrators and the office of the general counsel declined to comment on the new sexual assault policy until the entire process has been completed.
“The [office of the] general counsel was apprehensive about meeting with the students of the Feminist Collective, which I find rather interesting,” said Suzanne Exposito, a Lang senior and Feminist Collective member.
“I think there’s still a lack of trust between the administrators and student activists,” she added.
The Feminist Collective said that the administration did not inform them that the general counsel approved the policy; instead, a contact at student health services told them of the development. They arranged a meeting with Tracy Robin, assistant vice president for student health and support services, out of frustration that they did not have a chance to evaluate the revisions proposed by the university’s legal department.
At the meeting, Robin apologized to the Feminist Collective for not telling them of the administration’s changes, and showed them the most recent draft of the document, which included the general counsel’s input.
The Free Press has not yet had an opportunity to view the approved policy firsthand.
While Exposito said she thought the most recent version of the policy represented an overall improvement, some members of the student group were outraged by several omissions and alterations.
“Though the [new] policy has many improvements from the sexual assault policy as it existed last semester, many of the original concerns of the Feminist Collective are not addressed in this final draft,” Lang sophomore and Feminist Collective member Sarah Guenther said.
According to Guenther, the new policy doesn’t explicitly outline administrative procedures for investigating sexual assault claims. She also said that the current policy would prevent some victims from reporting assault claims, because the university will continue to discipline students who were under the influence at the time.
“Really, [these shortcomings] all could be satisfied with a few swift changes,” Guenther added. “The policy could be so much better.”
On April 4, the Department of Education unveiled new guidelines which would change how colleges and universities handle allegations of sexual assault on campus. The Dept. of Ed. hopes to strengthen existing federal regulations under the Title IX law. As of press time, it is unclear how The New School will respond to the new guidelines, but all universities are expected to reform their incident review processes.
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