Staff Editorial: A mandatory expulsion policy for perpetrators of sexual assault

Sexual assault is among the greatest threats facing student safety on college campuses. At Lawrence, several groups have been active in educating our community about the issue.

In the past year alone, Student Alliance Against Sexual Harassment and Assault (SAASHA) has become an official Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) recognized committee, Sexual Harassment and Assault Resource Board (SHARB) has restructured its membership and process, Fox Valley Voices of Men has formed a working-group made up of students, faculty and staff, and several student organizations have held events to benefit shelters and support survivors.

But as groups like these gain traction on our campus and others around the country, university administrations have yet to take serious actions on one important aspect of the issue. There is no policy in place to ensure that perpetrators of sexual assault are expelled.

The lack of a mandatory expulsion policy will profoundly affect the Lawrence community in the near future, as a student perpetrator will be returning to campus in the upcoming Fall Term. The perpetrator will be able to return since a victim of their assault is graduating this Spring Term.

When sexual assault is reported on a college campus, any steps that follow are often even greater sources of trauma for survivors. This is due in large part to the dual process of reporting assault legally to the police and institutionally to the college or university.

While the institution has little or no decision-making power over the legal process, Lawrence’s administration can do much more to ensure safety on our campus. A mandatory expulsion policy would demonstrate a great deal of understanding and ensure the support of all survivors.

Perpetrators of rape, sexual assault and harassment are not owed a second chance. When an individual is found guilty of such crimes, Lawrence University, like all schools, should take active steps to ensure the safety of all students on campus. Perpetrators are not only threats to prior victims; they are threats to the entire student body.

As this very real threat becomes tangible next Fall Term, all members of the Lawrence community should be aware of the possible changes that would demonstrate institutional commitment to student safety.