First, we would like to emphasize that we do not wish to question, invalidate, or detract from Joanna’s account of her experience with the administration concerning her sexual assault case. Rather, we would like to explain the reporting procedure for incidents of sexual assault on campus in order to ensure that students are aware that, although there is room for improvement, the administrative regulations and protocol for handling matters such as these are, for the most part, beneficial and effective for students who would like to report a case of assault to the University.

In order to ensure that the student body has a comprehensive understanding of the reporting policy on this campus, we would like to outline the actual process of reporting a sexual assault through the university.

A student who decides to file a report of sexual assault has their report handled by one of the Deans of Students and the report is also given to Public Safety. The student writes a statement explaining the situation. Then the accused student is notified by Public Safety of the charges against them, at which point, the accused student is encouraged to write an independent statement. A Dean meets with both students separately to explain to them the details of the process and the different options they have, as well as to simply check in with each of them. Each student is allowed to gather witnesses who can submit written statements to the case file.

The accused student is given two options; they can opt for a judicial conference or a hearing. In a judicial conference, the accused student would be pleading either “Responsible” or “In Violation” to the charges and would then have to accept a punishment from the school. The accused student would be aware of the punishment prior to accepting it. If the accused chooses to plead “Not Responsible” or “Not in Violation,” then a hearing will ensue. The reporting student can decide how present they would like to be for the hearing. There are many options including: being in the room, having a barrier between them and the accused student, or choosing to remain absent from the room in order to ensure they feel comfortable and safe.

The hearing panel consists of five people: a chair of the hearing (usually a Dean of Students who is not a part of the final decision) and four panel members, two men and two women from either the faculty or the staff who have been trained in sexual assault response. The reporting student can read their statement, make any amends to it, and call in their witnesses. The accused student will have the opportunity to do the same. During the hearing, the panel can ask both students and witnesses any questions that they may have. If the reporting student or the accused student so chooses, they can direct questions to the other party through the chair of the hearing. Each student is then given the opportunity to make closing statements. The panel deliberates and notifies each student of the decision and the punishment if the accused is found In Violation. Please refer to the Code of Non-Academic Conduct in the student handbook, or for more information.

We feel that this is a fair system and a viable option for any student who wishes to report an incident of sexual assault. It is by no means perfect, but no legal system is. Cases of sexual assault are inherently extremely delicate and difficult cases to resolve especially when one takes into account the complicating factors such as the usual lack of direct witnesses, and the frequent involvement of alcohol or drugs.

There are a few things we would like to stress about these hearings: first, the panel who makes the final decision is made up of two men and two women who are trained in sexual assault response and have handled cases like these before; second, the two Deans of Students are not involved in the decision-making process, but they do take these cases very seriously no matter their gender, and they are very upfront in explaining (in meetings with the Deans and Public Safety) that there is not a guaranteed outcome.

Wesleyan’s administrative procedures for dealing with matters of sexual assault very much resembles an actual trial in which it is up to the petitioner to prove the guilt of the defendant. The administration ensures that there are fair trials, and they ensure that both students’ interests and well-being are looked after. The university is legally obligated to protect both the reporting student and the accused student. Therefore, if they feel that there is not enough testimony or evidence, unfortunately, they cannot proceed with a conviction. However, most cases find the accused to be in violation: this year, three out of four cases have found the accused in violation. The administration takes the task of determining the validity of a claim of sexual assault very seriously and they will not convict a student of sexual assault unless a solid case can be made against them.

We would like to encourage anyone who is thinking about reporting to do so. It is true that one cannot always get the outcome that they want or expect, but filing a report, even if the case does not result in a conviction, is an extremely important step to take and has many benefits. Reporting an incident of sexual assault allows the survivor to stand up for himself/herself and ensure that their voice is heard.

Reporting is not an easy process. It can affect all facets of your life including your schoolwork, your social life, and your mental stability, but there are support systems in place to help survivors through this difficult process. OBHS can help students deal with the emotional trauma of such a significant event. Additionally, Class Deans and/or the Deans of Students can help a student to secure new housing, make arrangements for extensions or incompletes, and help them withdraw from any classes. There is also the option of talking to Liz Krushnic, the current SART intern, who can walk you through the reporting process, the different options available to students, and the various resources to support survivors. We encourage anyone thinking of reporting through the school to talk to Dean Culliton about their options. You do not need to reveal the name of the student you are accusing, but Dean Culliton will have to file an anonymous report after you speak with him. You will not be forced to report the student, reveal their name, or press charges through the school, though. Additionally, reporting an incident of sexual assault to the University is often less intimidating than reporting the case to the Middletown Police, although that is definitely a viable alternative.

We would like to stress that anyone who feels they have been sexually assaulted should get STI testing, pregnancy testing, and/or emergency contraception. Regardless of whether or not someone chooses to report, they should talk to someone about the assault. It is an extremely traumatic experience and it is necessary to speak with supportive people in order to begin the recovery process. It is important to focus on healing and protecting your well-being.

We would like to add that Joanna is now working on a list of demands with other students to facilitate change in the way that sexual assault is conceived and dealt with on this campus. We think this is an important step to take in regards to sexual assault awareness, response, and prevention, as no system is perfect and there is always room for improvement. Students who wish to facilitate change at Wesleyan can join one of the many groups that are working to improve sexual assault response on campus such as: Students for Communication and Consent, Take Back the Night, the Unspeakable Acts orientation committee, and FemNet, to name a few.

It is essential that students know that if they are ever put in a situation in which they feel they have been sexually assaulted that they can go to the administration and seek justice through the channels that the University has set up. It is unfortunate that Joanna does not feel she received justice in her case, but our hope is that we can remind students, should they ever feel unsafe or violated, that the University and the administration are valuable resources who work to maintain not only the safety, but, also, the rights of Wesleyan students.

  • David Lott, ’65

    “Wesleyan’s administrative procedures for dealing with matters of sexual assault very much resembles an actual trial in which it is up to the petitioner to prove the guilt of the defendant.”

    This is nothing like an actual trial. In an actual trial, a prosecutor, who has experience and skill in presenting facts, presents the case. Before the prosecutor beings, he or she conducts and exhaustive review of the facts. The prosecutor’s responsibility includes a duty to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to make a claim at all.

    Likewise, in a actual trial, the defendant is represented by someone with equivalent skill.

    In a real trial there are evidentiary rules which help to promote fairness, and a standard of proof–beyond a reasonable doubt. From this account it seems that Wesleyan’s procedure ignores these issues.

    What Wesleyan seems to have is a continuation of the confused dispute that arose between the parties in the first place.

    How can the victim possibly be expected to present a cogent case on his or her behalf? The victim should be a witness not an advocate.

    And how is it possible for the alleged perpetrator to present a defense when her or she lacks expertise and experience in doing so, in a system that apparently has no evidentiary standards or standard of proof?

    The system described in this article is glaringly deficient in due process. The American judicial system has been a thousand years in the making. While it too has remaining imperfections, Wesleyan might consider looking there for a model for improvements.

  • Anonymous

    Great commentary above.

  • David Lott, ’65

    Thanks Anon, but:

    Glendower: “I can call spirits from the vasty deep.”

    Hotspur: “Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them?”

  • Ron Medley, `73

    David – I don’t think we need to replicate every detail of an Anglo-American judicial proceeding in order to preserve due process. Certainly no one wants to see a young woman exposed to cross-examination by a professional third party, the sole purpose of which would be to impeach her story, often by casting aspersions on her sexual history. Avoiding such a scenario is probably one of the main motivating factors behind many of these college judicial proceedings, including Wesleyan’s.

    I think the chief advantage of the hearing or “trial” described by Mss. Galvin and Fuhrmann is that it keeps the lawyers out of it and relies instead on two people simply telling their own stories and the finders-of-fact asking their own questions. This is the way it is done in many perfectly democratic countries across Continental Europe.

  • Mytheos Holt

    It also has the potential to be a gross violation of civil liberties, Mr. Medley. Wesleyan is not a European university and does not operate under principles of European culture or law. In this country, at least, we do not presumptively believe that all cross-examination of an alleged victim is a priori unjustified. Indeed, it’s the opposite, at the point where presuming the trusworthiness of the victim leads to truly damaging cases of credulity, such as the Crystal Gail Mangum case at Duke. These incidents damage the ability of rape victims to pursue justice against their accusers far more than any cross-examination, no matter how searing, could ever do.

  • Ron Medley, `73

    I wouldn’t rely on the Duke Soccer Team case, if I were you. In that case, neither the accuser nor the accused were well-served by the American criminal justice system.

  • Mytheos Holt

    It was Lacrosse, and the accuser was demonstrably either delusional or a liar, so in a sense you’re correct in that the prosecutor didn’t laugh her out of the building. But if you want a better example of one lying victim ruining it for genuine victims, look at Tawana Brawley.

  • Ron Medley, `73

    It’s interesting that you should pivot toward the Tawana Brawley case as support for your argument that cross-examination by a lawyer is the preferred method of eliciting testimony in a rape case because, if you’ll recall, it was a Grand Jury that dismissed the indictment in that case against a wrongly accused white man.

    As you are no doubt also aware, defense lawyers typically are not allowed inside the grand jury room and the questions are posed by the jurors themselves (albeit, through the DA) — just as they are in the hearings described at the top of this editorial.

  • Mytheos Holt

    Yes, and not every false claim is that easy to resolve. My point was that false rape claims damage real victims, and you seem to agree. Had Tawana Brawley been as gifted a liar as Mangum, I’d have supported cross-examination of her, just as Wes should here, if for no other reason than to avoid a lawsuit.

  • ’12

    talking to dean culliton is NOT something I would want to do if I were sexually assaulted. he’s not the most cordial person to interact with. plus, he’s an old white dude.

  • Anonymous

    you’re right, the fact that he is old and white means that he cannot help you at all. As a young white male, I often feel the same way when I have to interact with minority women

  • Anon


  • David Lott, ’65

    “David – I don’t think we need to replicate every detail of an Anglo-American judicial proceeding in order to preserve due process. Certainly no one wants to see a young woman exposed to cross-examination by a professional third party, the sole purpose of which would be to impeach her story, often by casting aspersions on her sexual history.”

    You are behind the times. The plaintiff’s sexual history is inadmissible in nearly all courts, though the nature of the relationship with the accused may be relevant and admissible but with quite strict limits.

    And of course it’s appropriate to impeach the story of the accuser. If you can’t impeach the accuser’s story, you might as well move immediately to punishment without determining whether there was a crime.

    My main point, though, was the careless ignorance of saying that Wesleyan’s procedure is like a actual trial, and the cavalier dismissal of due process as a standard. You can have due process without replicating every aspect of the judicial system, and–believe it or not–without lawyers.

  • Alumni’07

    You people seem to mistake that this is a scholastic environment meant for students to express their concerns, discontents and the violations that have come against them. It is NOT a court of law nor should it Emulate one because it would do no justice to the actual legal system to do so. The Person who is a graduate of 64′ seems like he needs to get with the times and understand how JURISDICTION works.

  • Alumni’07

    sorry graduate of 65′

  • Monica Fuhrmann

    I would just like to clarify that I was not saying that Wesleyan’s procedure is like an actual trial in all ways. It is similar to an actual trial in that innocence is presumed until one is found guilty and the burden of proof lies on the accuser.

    “Wesleyan’s administrative procedures for dealing with matters of sexual assault very much resembles an actual trial in which it is up to the petitioner to prove the guilt of the defendant”

    Obviously a University’s judicial process is far less complicated than an actual trial and there are numerous differences between the two which is why I felt it important to make the distinction that I was not directly comparing all aspects of the two trials, I was simply comparing one facet to demonstrate why it is difficult to get a conviction.

    Additionally, it does not help anyone’s case to focus on technicalities in this article which you find to be erroneous. The point of this article is to inform students of the reporting procedure and to encourage them to report if they feel comfortable doing so. Furthermore, we felt that a clear presentation of the process would not only open up discussion on this topic, but could perhaps lead to student activism and response in order to improve the clearly flawed system of reporting sexual assaults on this campus.

  • Alumni


    I understood the exact opposite of what you just cited. I interpreted the article as an emphasis the efficacy of the system as a tool of justice rather than a call to activism.

    You seem to be a proponent of working within the administration’s flawed system rather than seeking to change it. It seemed that this article was a desperate attempt at damage control, trying to get people to report when that is the exactly what is wrong. The channels set up to report are so flawed that people really shouldn’t report through them. There should be anonymous reporting. There should be a central person to report to. There should be more infrastructure for victims and less for the accused.

    I hope you take some time to think about how this article probably did more to perpetuate complacency in the student body and the administration than it to do incite change.

  • Anon

    Why is everyone assuming that accusers are telling the truth?

  • ’12

    Why is no one caring about the fact that 90% of incidences of sexual assault go unreported?

    and its obviously for good reason, as dicks like the above poster will say they are lying.

  • David Lott, ’65

    “Additionally, it does not help anyone’s case to focus on technicalities in this article which you find to be erroneous.”

    Monica, I do appreciate your response, but it’s not a technicality. It’s a mark of your credibility and understanding. The statement shows a complete misunderstanding of what a trial is, and that makes the rest of your piece far less persuasive.

    I do not believe that it would be appropriate or practical to replicate the details of a civil or criminal trial in a internal Wesleyan proceeding. Not do I think that there should be lawyers. However, there are some fundamental aspects of due process that can–and often are–incorporated into informal procedures. Wesleyan seems to be placing little emphasis on these precepts.

    I am comforted to find out that there is a presumption of innocence. I note, however, that the “presumption of innocence” standard is of greatly diminished value if the standard of proof is low. In an “actual trial” the standard would be “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    Whether a reasonable doubt standard is appropriate in an internal Wesleyan procedure is debatable, because the alleged perpetrator is not being accused of a crime. However, your description of the procedure says nothing about the standard of proof, which is a crucial aspect of any fact finding exercise.

    Placing the burden of proving the violation of the alleged victim is also distressing and suspect. I have two daughters, three stepdaughters, two granddaughters. I would find it a completely inappropriate burden if one of them were required to personally carry the burden of proving that someone had raped or assaulted one of them.

    At some point you will be writing for a tougher audience than the readers of the Argus. People like me who read with a very critical eye and are unforgiving of sloppy writing or thinking. “Technicalities” matter. In the long run every persuasive argument is a series of technicalities.

  • Ema

    I don’t really understand why Wesleyan is involved in this kind of thing at all. As the above posters have discussed, Wesleyan is not the American justice system. So why would the University be involved in judicial matters at all? It really seems absurd, as if it’s the military or something.

  • Jackie Cruz ’07

    What makes me angry about the Wes administration and rape/sexual assault policy is that it assumes the authority to be able to take the place of the police and the court system. Rape is a crime and therefore it seems laughable that the University thinks it can make judicial decisions. If this were any other crime (murder, robbery, etc) the public would be incredibly angered by the idea that one of the Deans should hear evidence before the police. Much less set up a panel that mimics a court. The point, I think, is that the Wes administration should fully support students who report sexual assault by providing them with counseling and by encouraging them to work with police and lawyers (people who are actually trained to work with sexual assault victims). After all Detective Harvey (middletown police dept) does more for sexual assault victims than anyone at Wesleyan has ever done. In fact, I think it is kind of imperative Middletown polices’ view of how Wesleyan treats rape cases goes public.

  • Ron Medley, `73

    I’d be interested in knowing how many and what percentage of Det. Harvey’s cases actually go to trial?

  • David Lott, ’65

    Jackie, I think you hit at least one nail on the head with your comment. It’s a crime!

    I have also wondered what the responsibility of Wesleyan’s administrators is, once they have determined that a violation has been committed. Don’t they have a responsibility to report a crime?

    Your point is also a good response to those who say, “Gee, the problem is that we really don’t understand what a sexual assault is under Wesleyan’s policy.”

    Connecticut has a law on this, and everyone who wanders into the state is subject to that law, even though they have not had seminars and brochures to tell them what not to do.

    Why are Wesleyan students not encouraged to take their complaints to law enforcement? One hopes it has nothing to do with admissions and image.

    It’s hard to tell if Wesleyan is defining conduct as sexual assault that would not be assault under the law. Unlikely, since modern sexual assault laws are pretty comprehensive. Though under a reasonable doubt standard the violation is probably harder to prove in court.

  • David Lott, ’65

    To Medley–A very small percentage probably go to trial. This is true with most reported crimes. Usually the defendant pleads to something without a trial. Sometimes cases are dropped. It all depends on the strength of the evidence.

    One big difference is that in the courts the prosecutor has ultimate say about whether a case goes forward. In Wesleyan’s system the alleged victim does. Both approaches have some potential for injustice. Take your pick.

  • Ron Medley, `73

    Lott – It”s not a matter of me taking my pick; It’s a matter of where Wesleyan students go to report a sexual assault when in a majority of such cases the fact that 1) the victim and accused know each other, 2) there’s no evidence of physical trauma, and, 3) involved no co-defendants (potential witnesses) would all act to discourage prosecution in over-crowded state criminal courts?

  • David Lott, ’65

    Medly sayeth: “It’s a matter of where Wesleyan students go to report a sexual assault when in a majority of such cases the fact that 1) the victim and accused know each other, 2) there’s no evidence of physical trauma, and, 3) involved no co-defendants (potential witnesses) would all act to discourage prosecution in over-crowded state criminal courts?”

    In the case you imagine, just flip a coin. That will be as good a path to the truth as the procedure Wesleyan has. No evidence. No witnesses. Just “he said, she said.” You will never know the truth. You are right that such a case would likely not get prosecuted in state court. A conviction would be impossible except where the defendant impeaches himself. Somehow Wesleyan thinks it can devine the truth in classic “he said, she said?” Frankly, I don’t see how it can in most situations.

  • Ron Medley, `73

    btw, can you spell my name properly, or are just being rude?

  • Ron Medley, `73

    *you just being rude?

  • David Lott, ’65

    Medley. Sorry. Seems like I could use a good editor too.

  • What kind of Justice?

    “up to the petitioner to prove the guilt of the defendant”

    I thought that under our system of laws, a crime is considered a crime against the entire community, not personal vengeance, so an expert representative of society (the prosecutor) is the one trying to prove the defendant has broken society’s laws.

    If it were personal vengeance, some of us would solve it by getting together a group of sisters to rip the guy’s balls out and feed them to him. But that is NOT how we operate. We leave it to society to prosecute violent criminals. In return, we deserve to be able to trust society to prosecute rapists just like any other criminals.

  • Anon

    I’m with Cruz