Panel Discussion on Campus Sexual Violence Policy Held at UVA

December 2, 2014

By Amy Vu at NBC 29

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va (WVIR) – Students and staff at the University of Virginia are hoping words will turn into action regarding sexual misconduct on grounds. Tuesday night, they met at Garrett Hall at UVA to start hashing out what they can do in response to the Rolling Stone article criticizing an alleged rape culture at UVA.

The Seriatim Journal of American Politics hosted the panel discussion. The event featured four panelists – Office of Student Affairs Sexual Violence Project Coordinator Emily Renda, UVA School of Law professor Anne Coughlin, Batten School Dean Allan Stam, and John Cohn, the legislative and policy director for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

The panel discussion looked at the law and policies surrounding sexual violence on college campuses across the country – but with many eyes still on UVA’s standards for this issue, university members are pushing for change on several levels.

“If there’s an area of agreement here at this table, I think it would be that campuses have a vital role in responding to sexual assault,” said Cohn.

“The sense of anger and outrage is driven by the fact that we have numerous complaints from victims, survivors that have come forward, provided their testimony and in the course of that no one has been expelled,” said Stam.

The panelists talked about the difference between criminal justice and civil rights in sexual violence situations.

“The institution and every person in this room has a very powerful interest in being sure that we are free from discrimination based on sex,” said Coughlin.

Panelists went on to debate the preponderance of evidence standard on college campuses.

“When it comes to discrimination, the bar is much lower because we don’t want to slant in the favor of the accused person in many ways,” said Renda.

“It is really a problem to describe it as not having much at stake at all because there’s a lot at stake for you all at these hearings,” said Cohn.

Some stressed that it is important to remember there are many different forms of sexual misconduct.

“We need to have it clearly in mind, the criminal justice system is going to be for some parallel proceedings here and then for others, our campus is going to be the only home,” said Coughlin.

In the question and answer period at the end of this discussion, one student asked for a recommendation each panelist would make to lawmakers on this issue. The answers ranged from right to counsel to a separate Title IX office on grounds.

Schools: University of Virginia