Some students are pushing to change U’s sexual-assault policy

Cati Vanden Breul

A group of approximately 30 students is working to change the University’s sexual-assault policy.

The students say the current policy, which does not allow the University to punish students who commit sexual assault in off-campus areas such as Dinkytown, is unfair and ineffective.

The group’s lead organizer, University senior Liz Borer, said she thinks the University is setting a double standard because students who riot off campus fall under the jurisdiction of the University, but those who commit sexual assault off campus do not.

“Most students live off campus, and off-campus assault is far more prevalent,” Borer said.

Incidents of sexual assault that occur among students in Dinkytown and other off-campus areas continue to affect their on-campus life, Borer said.

Additionally, most people who commit sexual assaults are repeat offenders, she said.

“By not punishing them, it’s putting the student body at risk,” Borer said.

The National Institute of Justice said 90 percent of college rape victims know their attackers.

“It can be really traumatic to go to class and see the person that raped you,” Borer said.

Borer, who volunteers at the University’s Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education, said she sent a letter to the Office of Student Affairs stating the group’s concerns and heard from the office within a week.

“(The Office of) Student Affairs has been really great in responding very promptly,” Borer said.

The students are working with the office to change the policy.

“I think the students are asking the right questions,” said Jerry Rinehart, associate vice provost for the Office of Student Affairs.

“It’s very encouraging that they are willing to organize themselves,” he said. “I’m taking this very seriously.”

A committee from the office will meet with the Office of the General Counsel this month to discuss and identify legal issues the University might face if it extends jurisdiction to include incidents of sexual assault that happen off campus.

Currently, students who commit sexual assault off campus are not in violation of the student conduct code and cannot be penalized by Student Judicial Affairs.

This means the University cannot enforce restraining orders on campus, Rinehart said.

He said he is in favor of changing the policy to include sexual-assault incidents that happen off campus if they affect the victim’s educational experience.

“We need to be able to intervene when this type of behavior affects student life in the classroom,” Rinehart said.

But he said incidents must be looked at on a case-by-case basis because of the University’s size.

“With a university of 60,000 students, if you tried to apply it everywhere, it would be a disaster,” Rinehart said.

Sharon Dzik, director of Student Judicial Affairs, agreed that for students to be penalized by the University, the assault would have to affect the victim’s life on campus.

Dzik said she is optimistic a positive change can be drafted.

“There is definitely a way to do it that works,” Dzik said.

University sophomore Nicole Wilson said she thinks a policy change is a good idea.

“I think it is needed,” Wilson said.

Anastasia Viray, an advertising junior, said she was surprised the current policy didn’t include incidents in Dinkytown.

“It seems ridiculous that it is just in dorms; most parties happen off campus in Dinkytown,” Viray said.

Borer said most students who hear about the sexual-assault policy are surprised and support a change.

“With a student push, there will show there is a demand for change,” Borer said.

Sibyl Siegfried, a University senior working with Borer to change the policy, said it is important that students keep trying to modify the policy.

“Student action really does have an influence,” Siegfried said.

Rinehart said the policy could change as early as the end of spring semester.