New operating principles also adopted
U.Va. Strengthens Procedures For Handling Sexual Assaults
March 17, 2005 --
The University of Virginia has adopted a newly revised set of procedures for handling cases of sexual assault among students. Since November 2004, students, faculty and administrators have been collaborating with the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs on changes to strengthen the procedures and to address concerns raised by students. The revised procedures have been posted on line at the following Web site: www.virginia.edu/vpsa/assaultprocedure.html.
Patricia M. Lampkin, vice president for student affairs, said that revising the procedures was a “rigorous and collaborative process.” In a mass e-mail to the entire student body, she thanked students for their contributions to the process.
“I hope the new procedures will serve first as a prevention tool,” Lampkin said. “One sexual assault is one too many. We need to keep working to ensure that everyone does what he or she can to prevent these tragic incidents from occurring. When sexual assault does occur, though, I hope the community will feel that we have a good process for responding — a process that students have contributed to and one that clearly presents the University’s resolve in addressing these cases.”
In addition to the revised procedures, the University has adopted a set of operating principles to guide activities associated with administering the procedures. (They can be found on line at www.virginia.edu/vpsa/assaultboard.html.) One of the most significant initiatives will be the creation of a permanent advisory committee on sexual assault appointed by the vice president for student affairs. The committee will include students, faculty and staff. In addition, an increased number of students will serve on the Sexual Assault Board, the body that hears and adjudicates cases. As in the past, Student Council will nominate students to serve on the board.
Input from students and others within the University community played a significant role in revision of the procedures. During two public comment periods, input centered on several common key issues, including the proposed single sanction of suspension or expulsion for parties found guilty of sexual assault; the structure and scope of the confidentiality provision; and the debate over the evidentiary standard. Resulting revisions to the procedures are summarized in the following four areas:
- Changes aimed at increasing the speed and efficiency of cases moving through the system were made throughout the Formal Adjudication process.
- A separate offense of sexual misconduct was added to encourage more reporting of cases and to convey that sanctions may vary by severity and act.
- Language was revised with regard to confidentiality and disclosures permitted by federal law.
- The procedures express the expectation that in cases involving a conviction of Sexual Assault, the hearing panel will consider suspension or expulsion. Any sanction imposed will be explained or supported in the written decision of the panel.
Contact: Carol Wood, (434) 924-6189