Duke strengthens disciplinary guidelines for sexual assault cases

Jul. 10, 2013 @ 05:33 PM

Duke students found responsible for sexual misconduct by the Office of Student Conduct will now be recommended for expulsion, rather than a three- to six-semester suspension, according to Duke Student Government.

The new guideline was announced this week and will be put into effect this fall. The guideline covers instances of physical, non-consensual sexual acts and sexual exploitation. 
“We believe that the change is a step in the right direction toward both preventing and addressing sexual assault on campus,” according to a Duke Student Government blog post.
The change was approved by Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, and the Appellate Board, which reviews decisions in student conduct cases and meets annually to discuss potential policy changes, according to DSG.
Duke’s new student executive vice president, Nikolai Doytchinov, served as student vice president for academic affairs last year, and he said the executive board held frequent discussions about the need for stricter sanctions.
Doytchinov added that tougher guidelines not only protect the community from repeat offenders, but symbolically show “how seriously our community takes this.”
“Duke is starting to take sexual assault prevention more seriously and this is just one step in the right direction,” Doytchinov said.
Moneta has served on Duke’s Gender Violence Task Force for five years and said the effort to address sexual misconduct goes back further.
He said cracking down on sexual misconduct has been a “work in progress” that has involved educational activities, intervention efforts and a mandatory reporting policy, which means any university employee or student in an ongoing peer-advising role who hears about a sexual misconduct allegation must notify the Office of Student Conduct.
Moneta said the new guideline doesn’t mean every student found responsible for sexual misconduct automatically receives an expulsion, but rather expulsion will be the first consideration.
Eleven students faced charges of sexual misconduct during the 2011-12 school year, according to Duke student conduct disciplinary statistics, but only three students had findings of responsibility. For a sexual misconduct violation, a panel vote must be unanimous on a finding of responsibility.
“This is not like the measles; there’s no vaccine,” Moneta said. “This is a very complicated issue that is not unique to us that just requires persistence and a multi-varied approach.”