The University may claim a commitment to ending sexual assault on campus, but how committed is it to actually keeping its promises to students?
The University's protocol for handling sexual assault cases is known as its Title IX policy. Once an assault is reported, the Title IX campus coordinator, Jennie Stewart, follows up with the survivor to determine whether or not an investigation will be necessary. If so, the Title IX Investigator will proceed with a formal investigation, gathering evidence to draft a summary report.
The summary report includes the investigator’s guilty or innocent verdict. In addition, the Title IX Campus Coordinator also offers her own guilty or innocent verdict. Both verdicts can be appealed by the respondent or the complainant. Then the case goes to the University’s Student Advocacy & Accountability Office to be reviewed and given a final verdict.
If all three verdicts are appealed, the survivor has the choice to either dismiss the case or move forward with a formal resolution which includes a pre-hearing conference and panel hearing. The hearing consists of three to five University employees and students, wherein parties can present evidence and provide witnesses for cross-examination.
According to LSU's Title IX statement, “Students found responsible for violating this policy may expect the range of sanctions to include, but not be limited to, disciplinary probation, deferred suspension, suspension, expulsion, psychological assessment, counseling, social restrictions, limited presence on campus, revocation of admission or degree.”
All of that sounds great on paper, but it's proven to be essentially useless in practice. Sexual assault survivors on our campus often go through this painful, extensive process and get no justice. Too many cases have just fallen through the cracks.
I spoke with one student, who only agreed to speak on the basis of anonymity, who said many who go through this hopeless process express feeling mistreated by the administration and believe the University’s consistent suggestion to 'seek therapy' is simply a way to get claimants to dismiss their cases so they can be swept under the rug.
Victims dread speaking with administration, as the University handles cases like it couldn't care whether justice is served.
Victims have gone through this process with clear evidence to support their claims and still received no justice. One woman I spoke, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, to had a written confession from her attacker, yet the only punishment he served was a deferred suspension.
Under a deferred suspension, the attacker can still roam freely around campus, with the only stipulation being that they'll be suspended if they violate University policy again.
How is that supposed to make victims feel? It's as if their cases don't really matter to the University.
The student I spoke to described the joy and hope she felt when she found out her attacker had received guilty verdicts, only to be let down when she realized he would still walk free. Throughout this process, she went through panic attacks and nightmares reliving her attack, hoping to keep other people safe from her assaulter.
And victims are not even protected from their attackers on campus. The student in question requested her attacker be removed from any classes she was also enrolled in and her request was denied. The administration offered to remove her from the courses instead.
Sexual assault survivors on our campus cannot even go to class without potentially running into triggers. The University doesn't keep a public record of students who have committed these crimes which would help keep other potential victims safe.
Our administration has proven that it cannot effectively deal with sexual assault cases on campus. The University should not be given the authority to preside over these cases on its own. It cannot protect its students.
We commit so much to this school when those in charge can't even commit to trying to keep us safe. Enough is enough.
Tamia Southall is a 19-year-old mass communication sophomore from New Orleans.