Sexual-assault statement stalls

JP Leider

The joint meeting of the campus undergraduate and graduate student governments saw its first filibuster Tuesday.

The statement withdrawn because of the filibuster would have called for the University to accommodate orders of protection and restraining orders when they affect the academic life of students in cases of sexual assault.

Bret Klapper, the Forum member who filibustered the statement, said he did it because the statement could have allowed the administration to punish an accused student who has not been convicted in court.

“I don’t want anybody to think I’m not concerned about sexual assault,” Klapper said. “But I don’t think we should punish people for a crime before the actual court convicts them.”

Later in the evening, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly passed a proprietary version of the statement by unanimous consent.

If sexual assault occurs on campus, victims can seek recourse through the University’s Student Judicial Affairs.

However, under University policy, if sexual assault occurs off campus, the University’s collective hands are somewhat tied.

While few student-representatives argued against the idea of stricter regulations regarding sexual assault, some wondered if the original statement – calling for extending the Student Code of Conduct to off-campus instances of sexual assault – would set a precedent that could allow the University to venture further into students’ private lives.

The statement was amended to call for a change in the University policy to “accommodate implementation of orders of protection and/or restraining orders when they intersect with the educational, health and safety concerns of the affected students.”

While the statement repeatedly cited the Student Conduct Code and inadequacies in the code, the final resolution actually wouldn’t call for a change in the Student Conduct Code but instead in University policy.

Roberta Gibbons, associate director of the Aurora Center, said sexual assault is unlike any other experience in affecting a student’s life.

“When a person is sexually assaulted, it dramatically impacts academic life at the University,” she said.

For Minnesota Student Association President Emily Serafy Cox, the issue is personal – she had a friend who experienced sexual assault off campus, which Cox said profoundly impacted her friend’s academic experience.

“She had a restraining order against the man who raped her, but that restraining order was not able to be enforced on University property,” she said. “They were in many of the same classes, so it was a really complicated situation.”

She said after the meeting that she was disappointed in the choice to filibuster.

“It is unfortunate; he obviously had concerns,” she said. “Part of the reason we have debate is for people to voice those concerns.”

His filibuster stopped that debate, she said, and essentially derailed the rest of the joint meeting.

MSA and GAPSA adviser Margaret Cahill said the filibuster was a fine example of process getting in the way of purpose.

“Everyone has a right to be heard, but (the filibuster) took away the others’ right to vote,” she said.