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Student groups offer feedback on U.Va. sexual assault policy

On the heels of protests and increased media attention to the University's sexual assault policy, the Sexual Assault Leadership Council held a "community concerns" meeting last night in the Physics building to collect input. The meeting consisted of small group discussions headed by various leaders of University groups associated with sexual assault topics.

SALC Chair Sloane Kuney said the purpose of the meeting was to compile the community's input on changing the University's policy regarding sexual assault into a draft to send to University administrators.

Kuney said the meeting stemmed from the SALC's contact with University administrators, who wished to receive input from certain students on new drafts of University sexual assault policies. She said the SALC felt that not enough students were chosen by the administration to give effective input.

"We feel that the idea [of sexual assault reform] should be as democratically open as possibly as to giving feedback to the administration," Kuney said.

Lauren Russo, who headed the discussion of the Sexual Assault Board's confidentiality issues, said the general mood of the people giving her input was anger and frustration toward the status quo. Current SAB policy requires confidentiality of the content of sexual assault hearings and verdicts delivered against the accused.

Russo said the group discussed reforms to the University's confidential disclosure policy, including an interest in allowing sexual assault survivors the "right to disclose the results and content" of SAB hearings.

She added that her group suggested the result of SAB proceedings be made "semi-public" to the University community -- the names of those found guilty of sexual assault or sexual misconduct would be compiled on a list available to restricted individuals.

However, Russo said that the group wanted more serious punishments to be made widely known to the community.

"Everyone agrees that if you're expelled from the University for sexual assault, it should be made public," she said.

Claire Kaplan, coordinator of sexual assault education at the Women's Center, described the current state of University sexual assault policy as a "multi-layered problem."

She said the University has certain legal responsibilities that it has to meet, including an adjudication system and due process for those accused.

She added that these responsibilities are coupled with "the duty to protect survivors."

Kaplan said that in looking at the current policy, the adjudication process needs to be more transparent, yet offer a climate of safety for sexual assault survivors. She also added that in dealing with sexual assault, men should "hold their brothers accountable" in teaching a new concept of masculinity.

"How often you score is not the measure of how masculine you are," she said. "It's how you treat other people -- that's the measure of a man."

Kuney said the feedback obtained last night will also be sent to various University groups. From there, SALC would look for a second round of feedback before a final draft of suggestions would be created.


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