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Sexual Misconduct Board presents mock trial

Take Back the Night campaign continues

In an effort to raise awareness about University policies for taking sexual offense charges to trial, the Sexual Misconduct Board presented a mock trial Tuesday. The trial was part of a weeklong sexual assault advocacy program, Take Back the Night, which began Monday.

Assoc. Dean of Students Nicole Eramo, the board’s chair, opened the event by describing a typical trial, which often lasts an entire day and involves multiple witnesses.

Eramo also outlined several changes to the policy enacted in 2011. Most notably, cases are now adjudicated using a standard of “preponderance of evidence,” requiring a 51 percent certainty that a crime occurred, rather than the previous standard which called for “clear and convincing” evidence, which required a higher level of certainty.

In a typical year, the board hears between three and five cases, Eramo said.

“I meet with 20 to 30 students in a year that could use the policy, but probably 90 percent of people never report at all,” Eramo said. “An even smaller percentage report the crime to law enforcement.”

Tuesday’s mock trial was a rape case in which the complainant, the accused and three witnesses testified. After each testimony, the board — comprised of three faculty members and two students — asked clarifying questions, most of which sought to determine whether the complainant had the capacity to “effectively consent.”

After the trial, most felt there was not an obvious answer to the case — highlighting the difficulty in reaching a verdict using contradicting statements and a lack of detailed evidence.

In the 22 cases the board has heard since 1998, 11 have been found not guilty, 10 were found guilty, and one admitted his guilt, Eramo said. No one has ever been expelled from the University for sexual misconduct, because Eramo said there are other ways to deal with cases of sexual misconduct than blanket expulsions, noting polarized opinions about the Honor Committee’s single-sanction policy.

Students found guilty of sexual misconduct are often suspended, and their punishment may also include mandates to receive counseling and further education.

The mock trial followed Monday’s How to Date a Survivor panel by Take Back the Night. Educational and advocacy events will continue throughout the week.