Assembly proposes stricter COS standards
By Allie Lowe
Published on Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Student Assembly approved legislation endorsing the Committee on Standards Task Force Report at Tuesday night's meeting over the objection of some members who worry that the report's recommendations create barriers for victims of sexual assault.
The report, which was sponsored by Adam Shpeen '07 and the Academic Affairs Committee, sets forth eight recommendations to the Dean of the College based on the research of a task force that was created last spring.
Among the report's recommendations, two sparked debate among Assembly members -- one allowing direct questioning and one raising COS' burden of proof.
The report recommends that the College institute procedures that allow the accused party to ask witnesses and their accusers questions during COS hearings. As procedure now stands, an accuser's only option is to request that the COS chair pose a certain question, which gives the chair the opportunity to rephrase it.
The legislation's dissenters, including Assembly President Tim Andreadis '07, Yuki Kondo-Shah '07 and Michelle Davis '07, argued that this recommendation may create problems in sexual assault cases.
Kondo-Shah said that the direct questioning system may be appropriate for incidents involving academic dishonesty or conflicts with Safety and Security, but that in cases of sexual assault it "would be intimidating... [and might lower report rates for] a crime that goes underreported already."
The Task Force members pointed to the procedure of the U.S. court system to defend their recommendation.
"In the real world, if you don't have the balls to do [direct questioning], there's no case," Task Force member Will Rollins '07 said. He later apologized for appearing "insensitive."
Those who objected to the legislation were unmoved by these parallels to the U.S. legal system.
"The fundamental problem that I have is the comparison of the U.S. [legal system] to [Dartmouth's system]," said Davis, who is a non-voting Assembly member and previous Sexual Abuse Awareness Program intern.
One particular point of contention surrounding the report was the lack of input from Sexual Advise Peer Advisors, as only one SAPA member was on the task force. The lack of involvement from SAAP Director Leah Prescott particularly raised concerns at the meeting.
Adam Shpeen '07 and other members of the task force said that they tried to contact Prescott on numerous occasions and received no response.
The report also contains a recommendation calling for a change in the COS burden of proof from the current "preponderance of the evidence," which places guilt upon the party condemned by the majority of the evidence, to the more stringent "clear and convincing evidence."
"In regards to sexual assault cases, it becomes critical to examine the veracity of everyone's claims. The standard of 'clear and convincing'... makes that possible," Shpeen said. "I hope that when we meet with administrators they will examine these recommendations and take this seriously," he said.
For the Record: Due to a reporting error ("Assembly proposes stricter COS standards," Oct. 11), a quote by Will Rollins '07, "In the real world, if you don't have the balls to do it, there's no case," incorrectly replaced the phrase "do it" with "report it." When Rollins said "do it," he was referring to direct questioning, not reporting sexual assault.