UJC looks to change assault policies

During the University Judiciary Committee meeting Sunday night, Committee members discussed a proposal to amend their constitution to extend the statute of limitations on physical assault.

Amendments to the UJC constitution require ratification by the student body.

Members of the Statute of Limitations Ad-Hoc Committee presented a proposal that would extend the time limit for filing Standard One cases involving physical assault to one year. Now, all complaints to the UJC except sexual assault cases must be filed within 45 days of an incident.

Sexual assault cases, also part of Standard One of the UJC's 12 Standards of Conduct, already have a one-year statute of limitations because they are automatically forwarded to the Student Advisory Board, which deals with them in accordance with state laws.

"We've been working on this proposal for over a month," said second-year counselor Bob O'Donnell, who is on the ad hoc committee that crafted the recommendation.

The ad hoc committee looked at the statute of limitations on physical assault at seven other Virginia schools, including George Mason University, Mary Washington College, Virginia Tech and the College of William and Mary, O'Donnell said. They found that all the schools had a limit of about one year or had no limit at all.

The ad hoc committee also examined studies by clinical psychologists on how long victims of assault may need before they to come forward about an incident.

Victims of abusive relationships or abuse in social situations, such as a fight at a party, often feel scared, ashamed or betrayed and may take up to a year to confront the problem, O'Donnell said.

Some UJC members expressed concern about the proposal, mostly citing the possibility that a one-year limit is too long.

"As counsel, I'm more concerned with the rights of the accused," third-year counsel Seth Ragosta said. "I do think 45 days is too short, but a year" threatens the rights of the accused.

"I think there are some valid concerns about this proposal from both sides," UJC Chairman Paul Gigante said.

Gigante encourages community involvement in this issue.

In order to pass the proposal on to a referendum for the student body, it must be approved by two-thirds of the UJC representatives. Then, to amend the constitution a majority of the voting student body must pass the referendum.

If UJC approves the proposal, the student body probably will have a chance to vote on it during the spring student elections.

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