College releases update on sexual assault reporting policy

On April 8, Dean Bolton sent an all-campus email to the student body containing a report regarding sexual assault at the College. The report included the number of sexual assaults that occurred during the 2012-13 academic year, along with an update on campus policies regarding the investigation of sexual assault.

According to Bolton’s email, six sexual assaults were reported between 2012 and 2013. This number is a decrease from the 2011-12 academic year, in which 13 sexual assaults were reported. However, Bolton emphasized that based on survey data gathered in 2011, 45-50 sexual assaults take place each year at the College, and that only a fraction of those are reported.

Three of the six affected students chose to pursue disciplinary action against the accused assaulter through the College’s disciplinary system, but did not take legal action. “The complaints were investigated by the Dean’s Office in collaboration with Campus Safety and Security, and the evidence assessed to determine whether there was a violation of the College’s code of conduct,” the email said. “In each of those cases a preponderance of evidence indicated that a student had violated the College’s sexual misconduct policy, which requires explicit consent for all sexual activity.”

The College took disciplinary action against the three students who had been found guilty of violating the code of conduct. Students have the right to appeal the decision made by the Disciplinary Committee: One student appealed the three-semester suspension that had been sanctioned by the Disciplinary Committee, and the sentence was changed to an expulsion, while another student appealed a three-semester suspension, and the same sanction was kept. The final student filed no appeal.

Bolton’s email also addressed some changes in policy and administration that will be taking place soon. Meg Bossong ’05 was hired as the director of sexual assault prevention and response. “[Bossong] is an expert in this work both locally and nationally, and was selected following a national search,” the email explained.

In response to student recommendations, the policies regarding the investigation of sexual assault have been changed and updated. “When students report an assault and pursue the disciplinary process, the investigation and fact-finding will be done by professionals in the field who are external to the college rather than by Deans and Campus Safety and Security staff as has been our practice in the past,” Bolton said. The email cited the increased effectiveness of having outside professionals investigate, as well as the student concern that survivors should not have to share deeply personal experiences with people they see on a daily basis.

“The professionals we work with are highly trained, experienced and specialized,” Bolton told the Record. “They work in investigation of sexual assault in the college campus context as one of their primary specialties. We would only work with those who come highly recommended by other colleges who do this work seriously and well, maintaining the highest level of respect and support for all students concerned throughout the process.”