Explains Sex Offense Policy
the Oberlin Community:
I have received many communications concerning Oberlins policy
for dealing with sexual offense. I write in the hope of dispelling
some of the confusion that surrounds issues of sexual assault and
rape on this campus.
Oberlin takes rape and sexual assault extremely seriously. We also
take very seriously our responsibility for individual safety. We
have a stringent sexual offense policy with a full-time administrator
who thoroughly investigates each incident and allegation. The College
does not tolerate sexual offense of any kind, and we have full and
fair adjudication procedures.
When a member of the campus community reports a rape or sexual assault
to our Office of Safety and Security, the College immediately begins
an investigation. We also make a full report to the Oberlin City
Police and ordinarily issue an all-campus alert. When one member
of the College community charges another with a sexual offense,
the administrator of our sexual offense policy initiates our adjudication
process. If a victim does not make a charge, the administrator herself,
if she believes that there is sufficient credible evidence to do
so, will bring a charge on behalf of the College. Individuals who
are charged with rape or sexual assault may be suspended from the
College pending adjudication. If found guilty, they face very serious
The events of this fall have caused everyone to be worried. Students
reported two acquaintance rapes early this semester. These incidents
occurred within the space of a single week. Many people on campus
have confused these cases. They are significantly different, and
therefore the Colleges responses to these two alleged rapes
have differed in significant ways.
In the first case, a student accused two other students of rape.
The two students were arrested, and charged by the police. The College,
based on its investigation, suspended the two students. This case
made its way through the criminal court and was dismissed by a judge
at a preliminary hearing. The two students remained suspended from
the College until we completed our own adjudication process, which
is independent of the criminal justice system. In the Colleges
process, the two were found not guilty by unanimous
recommendation of a hearing panel composed of two faculty members
and three students. The students have been reinstated.
In the second case, a student reported a rape to our security department.
No formal charges have been made. The student and the College reported
the incident to the police, and the matter remains under active
police investigation. The College has conducted its own investigation,
which remains open: if additional evidence is forthcoming or if
the police investigation leads to a charge, the College can act
immediately. We do not have sufficient evidence to do so at the
Students at Oberlin enjoy civil rights. Under Oberlins own
standards, the rights of accuser and accused must be balanced, and
every case needs to be examined individually. Although we have a
lower evidentiary standard than the criminal justice system, we
must have sufficient credible evidence to charge and/or suspend
a student. The College will not charge someone when we do not have
any direct evidence that this individual may well have committed
an offense. Individuals are presumed innocent in an adjudication
process until proven guilty by a preponderance of the evidence presented
in a formal hearing.
Some students have told me that they do not feel safe on campus
in the wake of these incidents. I assure you that we have taken
each report seriously, and will continue to take all appropriate
action. Although the College works diligently to keep the campus
safe, no amount of effort by the College alone can do the job. Personal
safety also involves taking care of ourselves and others. Every
student can take steps to reduce the possibility of being raped
or of raping someone else. One of the most important preventive
measures involves not drinking too much: when alcohol is not in
the picture, both parties to a sexual encounter are much less likely
to lose inhibitions or misconstrue their partners wishes and
intentions. Nearly every reported rape and sexual assault on this
campus has been accompanied by prodigious amounts of alcohol and
severe intoxication. Staying sober is one good way to stay safe.
I also want to stress that the College offers many sources of support
to victims of sexual assault, including the offices of the Dean
of Students, the class deans, the counseling center, the chaplains,
student health and the Assistant to the President for Equity Concerns,
who is also the sexual offense policy administrator.
We must redouble our efforts to improve Oberlins programs
for sex and alcohol education. I am putting together a task force
to come up with recommendations for new programs and more effective
ways of educating all students to the realities of sexual assault
and rape and to ways to prevent them. More education is needed,
too, on understanding consent. At the beginning of the spring semester,
I will call for a campus-wide conversation on sexual ethics as well
as all the vexed issues surrounding rape and sexual assault at Oberlin.