The Record‘s editorial from this Wednesday, September 18 (“Calling for more transparency, accountability in discipline for sexual assault”) concludes with the following note:

The editorial represents the opinion of the majority of the Record’s editorial board. 

This immediately made me wonder: was this not a unanimously endorsed editorial by the Record’s board?

I hadn’t remembered seeing this message at the end of previous Record editorials; the most recent from last year don’t seem to have it. So, its inclusion here makes it seem like this was something they particularly had to make clear on this editorial–potentially because of a minority disagreement on the board.

Of course, it’s possible that this is just a new policy for the Record, and that there has been notable disagreement from the board on editorials before, simply without the disclaimer at the end. Perhaps they’ve decided that this is a statement they’ll include on all future editorials, to cover all their bases. We’ll see in coming editorials this year, I suppose.

But, assuming the more interesting case that there was a minority disagreement with the editorial. What did they disagree about?

The essential message of the editorial (as distilled by the title) is that there should be “transparency” and “accountability” with cases of sexual assault, which seem like pretty agreeable and non-offensive stances to take on sexual assault, just because they don’t really say anything. Looking more specifically, the “transparency” they cite seems to deal with release of public information:

First, we take issue with the College’s lack of public information regarding the standards for suspension or expulsion. If a student faces a semester-long suspension for sexual assault, the community currently has no way of knowing why. We as students do not even know if the College’s standards for penalties differ from year to year or from case to case. Nor does information exist as to whether disciplinary sanctions differ for cases of stalking, relationship abuse or sexual harassment as compared to sexual assault. This lack of transparency is worrying in its own right, but the College’s opacity could also intimidate and discourage survivors from reporting and pursuing cases. In the future, a rubric must clearly set out the severity of offense that merits each sanction.

I haven’t thought about this much and don’t know how much is “known” about the college’s handling of these cases. What did people know about the Bae case, how it was handled, and how such a case would be handled today? Perhaps that’s the point that the editorial is making, but my rudimentary understanding is that there are, at least, procedures that have to be followed when it comes to sexual assault cases. The actual punishment is less clear to me.

As for “accountability,” their statement is clear:

Rather, the College should establish expulsion as the presumptive, though not mandatory, punishment for students who are found responsible for sexual assault.

First, they cite statistics and studies detailing how many sexual assaults are repeated offenses, implying that the college has to be sure to expel sexual offenders the first time so that there can’t be a second time. Second, to help with students’ “perceived security,” since students will potentially feel unsafe on a campus with students who might be rapists.

This seems to be the most likely site of conflict that might have caused disagreement in the board. This hard-line stance would have the potential to harshly punish potentially innocent students. The board hedges their stance on this, with the following statement:

We recognize that increased penalties for sexual misconduct necessitate serious contemplation of the evidentiary standards that are required for a finding of responsibility, and the College must work to ensure a fair process for both parties with no presumption of guilt for the accused. Either sufficient evidence exists for a finding of responsibility or it does not, however, and we maintain that punishments short of expulsion can hardly ever be appropriate when such evidence is found.

In 2014, the college “found Bae responsible for misconduct and imposed a two-year suspension.” If this is the case, the board majority is saying, explusion should always be the next step.

What do people who disagree believe the next step should be, instead?

I understand why the board doesn’t publish a “minority opinion” when the editorial board is divided; it lessens the power of the editorial as a strong voice stating an opinion and cutting through to the campus. Nevertheless, it’d be great if editorial board members who disagreed would pen individual opinions articles (not under the “Editorial” mandate”) explaining their dissent.

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email