Editorial: Facing Sexual Assault on Campus

Photo by Jacob Reiskin, Editor-In-Chief  

By the Editorial Board

Sexual assault is often considered a distant issue, something that happens anywhere except at Skidmore. It happens at large, party-oriented universities, like Duke, Stanford, or USC. It happens at schools with a strong Greek life. It happens at places where students can get away with anonymity. But not here, right? Skidmore is a tight-knit community and its liberal bubble can often be deceiving. The SGA is working to dispel the notion that sexual assault is out of our realm of concerns with their new campaign, ‘It’s Happening Here.’ This campaign is a “program designed for Skidmore students by Skidmore students to bring our community together and face the issue” of sexual assault.

It is happening here; sexual assault is a pervasive issue that no school is immune to, and Skidmore has taken strides in the past few years towards addressing it. The Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct Policy has undergone numerous revisions over the years. Skidmore has also adapted a restorative justice approach to incidents of student misconduct, whether it is an instance of physical assault, sexual misconduct, or plagiarism. Restorative justice is an approach that’s main concern is an attempt to resolve matters between the perpetrator and the individual who was most harmed by the incident. Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Director of Campus Life David Karp is a firm believer in restorative justice, and is part of a national movement towards restorative justice on campus.

However, the Editorial Board does not believe that restorative justice is an appropriate approach towards handling incidents of sexual misconduct. This kind of interactive, reparative approach is too complicated and has too much potential for harm when used in situations as sensitive as sexual assault.

We also take issue with one of Skidmore’s options for sanctions. Skidmore’s Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct Policy offers an opportunity of readmission for a student who has been expelled or suspended, if the student presents his or herself as eligible to reenter the college. The possibility of readmission presents a fundamental issue in Skidmore’s approach to sexual misconduct. Why would a student who was found guilty of misconduct and worthy of suspension or expulsion be somebody Skidmore would want among its student body? Where does the willingness to re-welcome this student stem from?

Readmittance of a sexual assailant is not only unfair and potentially damaging to the survivor of the assault, but it also presents a threat to the entire student body. The school cannot be sure that an individual who committed a harmful crime in the past will not commit wrongdoing again. Although Skidmore may be inclined to take a restorative justice approach in attempt to give the assailant and victim an opportunity to work through trauma and rehabilitate, the (slim) potential for a positive outcome in that scenario is not worth the risk of placing a potential repeat-offender back on campus.

Furthermore, the fact that a student found guilty can be readmitted to Skidmore does not reflect well on the school’s role as a trustworthy entity with student interests in mind. Readmittance of a student who is a threat to the Skidmore community is not reassuring to other victims of wrongdoing, and most likely makes students less inclined to report incidents.

In going forth with policy changes, the Board recommends that Skidmore do away with the option of readmittance. A clear cut set of consistent, irrevocable sanctions would be much more beneficial to the student body, and would reflect more positively on the administration’s approach to sexual assault.


Update, 2/25/15: After further reviewing Skidmore's sexual misconduct policy and interviewing relevant administrators, we have found that our opinion is not in line with certain facts. Please look forward to a more extensive piece early next week that will explain and evaluate the sexual misconduct policy, as well as critique the student response. Thanks, Jacob Reiskin, Co-Editor-In-Chief

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