Still More: A Student Affairs Administrator Disputes "Victim-Friendly" Policy

Ashley Thorne

This open letter at Inside Higher Ed by an anonymous student affairs administrator is the most powerful piece of evidence I've seen so far showing why the mandates in the Office of Civil Rights' "Dear Colleague" letter go too far. The author complains that Russlynn Ali doesn't understand the job of an administrator who has to handle real cases as complex and contentious as sexual assault charges:

It is unlikely that Ms. Ali has ever sat at desk like mine, on the phone with a parent who cannot believe I allowed his daughter to drink, much less allowed (or not allowed -- always a difficult point to discuss) a "boy" to do the things her account reports. Or a parent who wants to know why I have sent her son home without so much as a hearing, an action we call "interim removal," while we investigate these claims. "Because the alleged victim is afraid of seeing him, and the Office for Civil Rights has made it clear that our process must support the alleged victim in this way" is not an answer that satisfies an angry mother who believes that her son (1) has been unjustly accused, (2) has not been given a chance to defend himself (yet), and 3) may find his ability to succeed academically compromised by his absence from classes during this investigation.  Has Ms. Ali ever had a parent, in a rageful voice, point out the inequity of all of this? Because I've experienced that on several occasions as I have tried to do what OCR expects from a "victim-friendly" policy.

The author writes that experienced human judgment is a better approach to getting to the bottom of sexual assault charges than this "victim-friendly" rule: "I do not appreciate having my hands tied by the presumption of guilt the Dear Colleague Letter portrays." The OCR regulations thus harm not only students and their families but also the campus administrators trying to sort out these painful situations.

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