The XX Factor

No Consequences for Sexual Assault on UMass Campus

Via Feministe comes this disturbing story of a UMass student who was “found responsible for sexual assault ” by the university last fall. His accuser, an alumna, did not press criminal charges outside the university’s disciplinary system. According to the Boston Globe , the alleged rapist was given a “deferred suspension ,” which means he was allowed to continue living on campus and will graduate on time.

Late last month, NPR told a depressingly similar story of an Indiana University student named Margeaux who was raped by a classmate . Her parents tried to get local police to investigate the case, but they refused, so Margeaux was forced to seek justice through the school. She ended up in a tribunal with her alleged rapist and his father. Margeaux told NPR of that disastrous tribunal, ” ’[My accuser] called me a slut. And his dad, who’s not supposed to speak, starts talking and saying, ‘These college girls have one-night stands all the time.’ ” Margeaux’s alleged rapist was also given a slap on the wrist: a year-long suspension.

As Emily Bazelon suggested on the XX Factor late last year, one reason why sexual assault on campus remains unpunished is because the Clery Act, under which schools are supposed to disclose crimes that occur on campus , conflicts with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which keeps disiplinary records confidential. NPR concurs, noting that offending schools have only been fined by the Department of Education six times in 20 years for violating the Clery Act . NPR also notes that Russlynn Ali, the Education Department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, is “willing to take steps not used by her predecessors: to withdraw federal funding from offending schools and refer cases to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution.” At least it’s a small step in the right direction, but it probably won’t offer much solace to Margeaux or her UMass counterpart.