The ASSU Undergraduate Senate passed all nine clauses of a bill recommending changes to the Alternative Review Process (ARP) for evaluating cases of sexual misconduct at their Jan. 8 meeting. The bill will be presented to the Graduate Student Council (GSC) for a vote today.
The bill was drafted during meetings between Senate and GSC subcommittees created to discuss the ARP. Suggested modifications to the ARP include adding an additional faculty or staff member to the ARP panel, appointing a panel advisor, and clarifying the appeal process, the method of checking for panelist bias, and the process for filtering questions.
“This was the big issue for the 14th Undergraduate Senate and I think it is a huge victory that we finally have something on paper,” said ASSU Senator Shahab Fadavi ’15.
According to senator Viraj Bindra ’15, three of the major concerns that students voiced about the ARP regarded judicial panel size, whether or not previous sexual history is relevant and the cross-examination process.
Bindra said that students asked for a larger panel that included more faculty or staff members to decide ARP cases. The bill recommended that the panel be expanded from three students and one faculty member to three students and two faculty members, a clause that Senate Deputy Chair Garima Sharma ’15 abstained from voting on.
“I knew that confidentiality is something that is very important for the ARP cases, so I think a four-person panel was a good size to have,” Sharma said. “I didn’t see a compelling reason to increase the panel size by one person.”
Of the ARP’s two statements concerning the relevance of sexual history, the Senate recommended the deletion of a section that states that the inclusion of sexual history in a case can be relevant when “evidence of past sexual history between the Impacted Party and Responding Student is offered as evidence of consent.”
“We didn’t feel that was essentially correct,” Bindra said. “Past consent never implies current consent.”
Senators agreed with the second statement regarding the relevance of sexual history, which states that sexual history will be considered if it “provides direct compelling evidence on a finding.”
However, senators were unable to make specific recommendations about whether or not the current cross-examination system is appropriate. The current system involves parties submitting questions to the panel after listening to arguments on the phone instead of having the opportunity to address them directly. The Senate requested that the BJA further review this system.
“We didn’t necessarily have a solution,” senator Lauren Miller ’15 said. “We had a few students tell us that the phone-in system wasn’t the best system, but we haven’t been through the process ourselves so we couldn’t think of a better system.”
After an explanation of the bill, questions from several senators and a five-minute recess to review the clauses, senators passed the bill. Six of the nine clauses were passed unanimously and no senators voted in opposition to any of the clauses.
Bindra abstained from voting on a clause that asked for the creation of a caveat to the preponderance of evidence section. The caveat would allow for review of the ARP in the future if the federal government changes its viewpoint on the standard of proof. According to Bindra, most of the ARP subcommittee’s members said that they would support the preponderance of evidence standard even without the bureaucracy involved in contesting it.
“I was not thoroughly convinced that the preponderance of evidence standard was the best that this college should take on,” Bindra said. “But I didn’t feel like I should disagree with it because of its relevance and the necessity of reaching a final conclusion.”
If the GSC also approves the recommendations, the bill will move to the Board of Judicial Affairs (BJA). The BJA will decide whether to implement the suggested changes and may present a modified version of the ARP to the Faculty Senate in March. The Faculty Senate will have the opportunity to suggest additional modifications to the ARP.
Jonathan York ’13, co-chair of the Board of Judicial Affairs (BJA), was present at the meeting to answer questions from senators about proposed changes to the ARP. When Sharma asked York if any of the changes proposed by the Senate would be contested by the BJA, York responded that the BJA might take issue with changing the number of panelists to include two faculty or staff members instead of one.
However, York noted that this change was not a “dealbreaker.”
“Given that this has been on the table for two years now, it’s more important to the Board, and to myself, frankly, to get [the ARP] on the books, whether it’s one more or one less faculty or staff member,” York said.