October 21, 2004

J.A. Releases Sexual Assault Numbers

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In an unprecedented move, the Judicial Administrator’s office agreed to release to The Sun the number of cases of sexual assault, sexual abuse and rape, and the outcome of each case. The report covers all incidences from 1992 until 2003.

The report comes as, over the past month, students, former students and outside organizations have criticized the University’s handling of sexual assault and abuse cases. “Through the University assemblies, students, faculty and staff have been responsible for the Code’s provisions,” the report reads, “the Code provides procedural rights both to complainants and to accused persons. It involves multiple checks and balances within the judicial structure.”

According to Judicial Administrator Mary Beth Grant law ’88, this system of checks and balances is important to keeping the code fair and just. She also said that the issues raised about sexual assault touch upon a number of societal concerns.

“It’s really bigger than the Cornell justice system,” she said. “The reasons for the coverage, the reasons for the questions is not because people are really interested in the campus judicial system, but because they’re interested in these complicated societal issues surrounding sexual assault, and we’re just one piece of these issues.”

“The numbers themselves don’t even begin to tell the full story,” cautioned Simeon Moss ’73, deputy director of the Cornell News Service.

“From 1992 to 2003, there were 7,110 accused persons referred to the campus judicial system for all manner of alleged violations of the Code,” the prepared statement reads. “Of these, 39 accused persons were accused of misconduct that fit under the Code’s Title Three, Article II, Sections R (sexual abuse), S (sexual assault) or T (rape).”

A case brought before the J.A. or the University Hearing Board can also be pursued within the criminal justice system.

The report noted that the cases varied in many respects, ranging in everything from the circumstances of the case to the outcomes desired by the complainant and the accused. The report states that the University Hearing Board has heard four cases since 1992.

A case goes to the UHB if the accused disagrees with the J.A.’s decision or punishment, if the complainant disagrees with the decision or if the J.A. feels that a suspension or expulsion from the University is appropriate.

“In one of these cases, a student was first temporarily suspended pending a hearing on the merits [of the case],” the statement reads. “He left Cornell and did not return.”

“In another case, the UHB found the accused had violated the Code and imposed a sanction of a written reprimand, community service and alcohol education,” the report continued. In the third case, “the J.A.’s Office suspended the accused student pending a hearing on the merits [of the case]. At the hearing, the UHB found there was not clear and convincing evidence of a Code violation under these sections (although the student was found in violation of another Code provision),” the report states. “The complainant appealed to the University Review Board, which upheld the UHB decision.”

The UHB found that there was not clear and convincing evidence of a Code violation in the fourth case.

The majority of the cases were resolved before reaching the UHB, by an agreement between the accused and the J.A., with the knowledge and consent of the victim.

“In 23 cases the complainant elected not to take the matter to the UHB,” the statement reads. “In these cases, depending on the circumstances, the accused person may have agreed to a combination of the following educational responses: oral warning or written reprimand, alcohol education, directed study, counseling, a no-contact agreement or an apology.” “Only the Hearing Board may impose suspension or dismissal, however,” the statement noted. “If the J.A. and the accused do not resolve the matter by agreement, either may take it to the Hearing Board for resolution.”

The statement adds that “a complainant may appeal to the Hearing Board if he or she disagrees with the actions of the J.A. Both accused persons and complainants have rights to appeal matters to the University Review Board.”

Grant said that in some cases, “the victim says ‘All I really want is for him to know he did something wrong.'”

She said that for many complainants, an agreement reached between the J.A. and the accused satisfies this desire.

In another eight of the cases, the J.A. did not have jurisdiction, primarily when the alleged infraction did not occur on Cornell property.

In two of the cases, the victim did identify the accused, according to the report. In another two cases, the report stated, “The J.A.’s Office determined that there was insufficient evidence to proceed and closed the matter with ‘no action.’ In these cases the complainants were informed of their right to appeal the J.A.’s Office’s decision, but elected not to.”

Archived article by Michael Morisy
Sun Senior Writer