2, Number 4, July 2002
Includes Mediation in New Sexual Assault Policy
following news story is based on an article from
the Chronicle of Higher Education dated May 24,
now has a sexual assault policy that includes
the option of confidential mediation. According
to Chronicle of Education writer Eric Hoover,
this fall, university officials will determine
in advance of an inquiry whether a complaint is
backed by 'sufficient independent corroboration'
-- more than one student's word against another's
-- including eyewitnesses and physical evidence.
If no such corroboration is available, officials
may dismiss the complaint and refer students to
a lawyer or to a new 'confidential mediation'
process to resolve the matter.
officials hope the new policy, which raises the
standard of proof needed in order for the campus
judicial system to hear allegations of sexual
assault by students, will streamline the complaint
process. Currently, every complaint leads to an
investigation. The oftentimes lengthy investigations
can be painful and frustrating for the students
involved. While the new policy eliminates full
investigation of every complaint, it does provide
more options. Harvard believes the options are
fairer, less intrusive and quicker methods of
Chanda, who wrote an article for the Spring 2001
edition of the Harvard Negotiation Law Review,
argues that mediation is the most effective process
for resolving sexual-assault cases. In 'Mediating
University Sexual Assault Cases' he states,
agreements can be tailored to best meet the parties'
interests going forward. Litigation or university
disciplinary procedures yield two possible outcomes:
the offender will either be held responsible or
he will not be. If it is the former...the offender
will either be put in jail or suspended or expelled
from the school. The two parties are not likely
to encounter one another again. If the latter
result occurs, however, the victim is fairly powerless...they
are likely to see each other again...By contrast,
in a mediated agreement, the parties can structure
their future relationship.
also explains that mediated agreements can include
a crucial aspect of healing and closure - an apology.
In 'Sex, Rape, and Shame', an article in the June
1999 edition of the Boston University Law Review,
Katherine K. Baker states
forces people to admit their wrongdoing in a way
that criminal punishments often do not. It also
forces people to appreciate the consequence of
their actions and focus on whether the consequences
are worth it.
Opinions about the New Policy
with any new decision or rule, there are
differing opinions about the new policy
concerning sexual-assault complaints at
Harvard. Some students feel the elimination
of investigations for all complaints ignores
students, as well as the issue of rape and
assault. Supporters of the policy, however,
see the new strategy as innovative. They
feel that offering alternatives to lengthy
investigation is empowering and commendable.
more information about sexual harassment,
sexual assault and rape policies at Harvard,
visit the Tell Someone website at http://www.college.harvard.edu/student/help/
project of Campus Conflict Resolution
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Detroit, MI 48201.
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