This letter to the editor really ticked me off because it is so damn cunning. Its argument basically goes like this: 'Girls, you deserve the best in taking care of rape on campus. That's why we should force you into court and police investigations and make the College renounce all rights to punish its students for incidences of alleged rape. We only want what's best for you.' Bullshit, of course, but he makes it sound nice. I wanted to respond because it seems to make sense, but it would actually be disastrous. Thank God the College is at least committed to having SAAP around. Anyway, here's my response, which I'm thinking is not going to be printed.
Peter DeMaria's "Sexual Abuse Policy at College" raises a lot of questions.
If rape is a serious crime, why do we at Dartmouth adjudicate it in more or less the same manner we adjudicate things like unregistered kegs? Why do we allow such a serious crime to be investigated in a way that trivializes its actual legal ramifications? Why do we assume that our (Dartmouth's) legal structures are equipped to deal with all the issues surrounding rape, including the ways in which it can irredeemably despoil a young man's future and the ways in which a rape trial or tribunal can affect the behavior of many people outside the tribunal? Why do we not force every young woman who believes herself to have been raped to take her day in court and get things done properly?
If the final question seems out of character with those preceding, it is not because it differs substantively from those preceding, but because it differs rhetorically. It is not phrased as nicely. All of the above questions rely on the underlying question, "Why settle for less?" to answer the crucial question, "how do we prevent rape on campus?" However, "why settle for less than police and court involvement?" is not an answer--legally, morally, or administratively.
The issue at stake is not, as DeMaria believes, whether "[t]he College [...] has the ability to appropriately investigate and internally adjudicate sexual abuse better than the police and state law." [emphasis mine] The issue is whether it has a right to punish its own students regardless of the actions of police or state law. It emphatically does, provided that the punishment not restrict the state's ability to punish the alleged rapist. Expulsion or suspension or any other college-administered punishment does not meet that criterion. College discipline does not change the severity of the crime nor does it constitute a dereliction of duty in not handing things over to the police or the courts. Finally, whether the College is better at dealing with rape on campus than police or the courts is a matter for the alleged victim to decide, not for DeMaria or I to do so. I am not recommending that we always police things internally; I am recommending that it be a possible supplemental recourse. I am recommending that we do not shut off our options by delegating all responsibilities for rape prevention to the police and the courts.
I would like to say that I do not believe our system is absolutely perfect. I do believe that the precautions and policies we enact need communal consideration--we need to be informed, reflective, and interactive. I do not think that the Sexual Abuse Awareness Program opposes this, but I do know that DeMaria's suggestion makes it impossible.