To the Editor,
In recent days, there has been a flurry of conversation around the proposed idea of “mandatory expulsion” for violators of Lawrence University’s sexual misconduct policy. Mandatory expulsion policies are not trauma-informed and place Lawrence in grave danger of lawsuits. As a victim advocate of sexual violence at Lawrence, I do not disagree that Lawrence must address a systemic institutional failure to appropriately respond to sexual violence.
Mandatory expulsion seems simple. However, like similar mandatory sentencing laws, mandatory expulsion policies can potentially violate the due process rights of the accused as outlined in Title IX, the Clery Act and administrative law. If an institution conducts an investigation that does not afford specific rights to the accused, that individual can then go and file a suit against the university for violating these rights.
In some cases, the victim can be brought into the court proceedings to allow the court to better understand what occurred during the university adjudication procedure. This not only inhibits the ability of Lawrence to keep students safe but could also further traumatize the victim.
Instead of mandatory expulsion, Lawrence needs to invest in adopting trauma-informed approaches, effective training of all faculty and staff, and punishments that are proportional to the crime committed. Victims must receive appropriate services in the immediate aftermath of sexual violence and be listened to when they approach administration. No residence life advisor, residence hall director or member of the administration should ignore or try to mitigate incidents of sexual violence.
Victims must be in control of the decision to pursue campus-based adjudication. Victims should be supported, and if they decide to pursue campus-based adjudication, it should be ensured that the process is adequate, follows federal and state laws, and does not inappropriately fail to ensure the rights of the victim or the accused.
Instead, hold Lawrence accountable until there is an investment in ensuring the sexual misconduct policy adequately and effectively serves all students. Push Lawrence to be the supportive environment for all students it purports to be through continued conversations.
— Margaret H. Schmidt, class of 2012