Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Questions about Title IX processes and conflicts of interest raised at Brown March 12, 2015

Filed under: sexual assault — noetika @ 3:58 am

From a letter written by undergraduate representatives to Brown University’s Task Force on Sexual Assault:

Through our work on the task force, we have seen first hand the difficulties in creating change in a bureaucratic system and understand that this process can be lengthy and frustrating. But the issues that the cases discussed over the past week have raised are not mere procedural hiccups. They are clear examples of the impact of bias, power and influence on this process. We strongly believe that policies protecting students who have experienced sexual violence must be implemented consistently and fairly, regardless of the power dynamics at play.

From our personal experiences of the process, we know that hearings are held when it has been determined that an incident could plausibly have occurred. As The Herald outlined in a March 4 article, Brown dropped chargesagainst the student accused of serving a drink with GHB. This alleged perpetrator has a father who sits on the Corporation’s Board of Trustees. The decision surprised both women involved, with one writing to an administrator that she thought the University would hold a hearing given the witness testimony provided.

This was our understanding of the hearing process, and we find it highly unusual that these women were not even allowed to present their case in a hearing. The University decided that the testimony of these survivors was not credible enough to be heard . . . 

It is imperative that University policies and procedures are carried out equitably and consistently, regardless of connections, power, money or other extenuating factors. Definitions of consent need to be clear and consistent in policy and implementation and incorporate an understanding of the ways that date-rape drugs impact an individual’s ability to consent.

In order to regain the trust of the student body, the University needs to take seriously its obligation to protect all students, create a safe learning environment and take a stronger stance against external influence on the adjudication and sanctioning processes for sexual violence. It is our hope that the task force’s substantial efforts will not be undermined by unfair and inconsistent implementation.

And more from the Huffington Post:

Brown University is already under federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Education into how it handles sexual violence on campus. Both men and women have come forward to accuse the school in Providence, Rhode Island, of failing to adequately punish offenders. And now, the messy handling of the drugging investigation has left alleged victims angry they were denied a hearing, while the fraternity is accusing the school of unjustly punishing it . . .

The women reported the alleged drugging and assault to the university on Oct. 18. Brown opened an investigation, collecting hair and urine samples from the women to be sent to two labs to be tested for date rape drugs, such as gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB). Carlson Company was contracted to conduct a hair test on the female student with the allergies, and Lifespan Laboratories to conduct a urine analysis on her friend who had reported being sexually assaulted. By the end of November, both tests had come back concluding GHB was present in the women, according to toxicology reports reviewed by The Huffington Post.

But the results were put in doubt in December after the student accused of drugging the women had his own expert review the toxicology reports, according to university documents and emails. That student obtained a court injunction on the hearing that month; the school then dropped the charges in February, school records show.

At issue, multiple experts who reviewed the toxicology reports questioned whether Brown had received tests that showed endogenous, or naturally occurring, levels of GHB, or exogenous levels, which would suggest a drugging. The toxicologist hired by Brown said the positive results suggested naturally occurring levels, but noted it’s rare to catch evidence of a GHB drugging in these tests.

Upon further review from independent experts, the school decided in February the toxicology results were “inconclusive” because the labs had not followed proper testing protocols. It cut in half the four-year suspension in it had given Phi Psi in January, when it deemed the fraternity had “facilitated” conditions leading to sexual violence.

On Feb. 23, Phi Psi started distributing on campus and to media outlets a statement that raised doubts about the results of one GHB test and said the second came back “conclusively negative.” This language is disputed, but members did not respond to request for comment on the discrepancy.

The women question Brown’s decision to drop conduct charges, since they say the university told them their testimony was credible enough to at least hold a hearing. Other students who have been involved in the student conduct process say hearings are often held based on complainant and witness testimony, and questioned whether the investigation was derailed by a conflict of interest.

 

Sexual Assault & Students with a Disability February 13, 2015

“The hidden victims of campus sexual assault: Students with disabilities”

“Even Gallaudet University, designed specifically for deaf students, can get it wrong when it comes to rape”

“Nationally, research has shown that individuals with disabilities experience sexual assault at significantly higher rates than the general population and that they also face critical gaps in services when they seek help for abuse. At the same time, experts say, schools have yet to adequately assess or address the issue on their campuses. “

“Al Jazeera America’s six-month investigation into sexual violence at Gallaudet — which included interviews with a dozen current or former students who say they were sexually assaulted, senior Gallaudet administrators, Title IX and disability experts, and an analysis of the university’s judicial board actions — reveals that even a school explicitly designed for students with disabilities can struggle in dealing with sexual assault.”

One story:

“Melissa thought his [Mike’s] behavior was creepy, and she reported him to Gallaudet’s Department of Public Safety. Since he wasn’t a student, she hoped DPS would bar Mike from campus. Instead, she says, the DPS officer she met with didn’t take her seriously: “He was sort of casual.” He started asking Melissa questions about her blindness, she says, and whether she could really know if she was being stalked. “If you couldn’t see him,” Melissa says the officer asked her, “how do you know it was Mike stalking you, and not someone else?”

“Yes, she was blind, but Melissa had other ways of identifying people, she insisted. She gave the officer details about the roughness of his hands when he signed to her, the things he said to her, and even offered to show him his Facebook profile picture. But without visual identification, Melissa says, the DPS officer told her there was no way they could pursue the claim or bar Mike.”

Another story:

“The two women, whose names and some identifying features have been changed, began dating. But within a month and a half, Alma says, their relationship took a turn. It began with a light punch. As a survivor of abuse growing up, Alma told Lisa the punch triggered bad memories.

Alma says Lisa suggested that it was playful and described growing up in a difficult home. Feeling guilty, Alma scolded herself for not being sensitive enough.

But over the course of their five-and-a-half-month relationship, the abuse escalated, she says. If Lisa felt Alma spoke too loudly, she would pinch her. And when Alma reacted, she says, Lisa would snap, “Oh my God, do you know how awful you sound?”

Alma had no idea what her voice sounded like, but she did know that the fastest way to disempower her was to demean the way she spoke. “The verbal insults became the root of the relationship,” Alma recalls. “Before I knew it, I was getting in trouble for talking to my friends.” [It gets worse.]

“But the worst part, she says, were the questions the other officer asked her.

““Are you sure you were raped?”

““You call that rape?”

““Do you know what the definition of ‘rape’ is?””

On how the university handles sexual assault:

“in October, an article in the university’s newspaper told an unnamed survivor’s account of why she didn’t report assault. “It had nothing to do with how the university would handle it,” the piece began. “But it had everything to do with me being embarrassed.” Later, it continued, “I’ve seen how Gallaudet has improved in how they handle sexual assault and rape cases, and I have faith in how they run the system.” But while the university was being defended by its students, it was also trying to block the reporting that led to this article. During this investigation, Gallaudet, and representatives from a communications firm it hired, reached out to Al Jazeera America on several occasions to express concern about contacting sources for this story.

““We’ve all been dismissed as being the exception individually, even by people who are sympathetic and open to listening to our story,” explains one student who says she was groped by an unknown assailant one night. “People don’t want to see it as common [because] it’s scary. For one, it means it can happen to them. It also means admitting there is something wrong with a system they are a part of … Gallaudet is such a safe place in other ways, nobody wants to admit that there is an ugly underbelly.”” -Alma

 

 

The Hunting Ground January 26, 2015

Filed under: academia,rape,sexual assault,sexual harassment,women in academia — philodaria @ 12:26 am

The makers of The Invisible War have come out with a new documentary about sexual assault on American campuses. From Variety: 

Kirby Dick’s “The Hunting Ground,” a buzzed-about documentary about the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday afternoon.

“I want to thank to the hundreds of survivors who interacted with us,” Dick told the packed crowd at the Marc Theatre before the screening. Appearing with four of the victims featured in the film at a Q&A after the screening, which received a standing ovation, he added: “This is a problem at schools all across the country,” Dick said.

The film, which will be released by Radius/TWC in theaters on March 20 and on CNN later this year, persuasively argues that college campuses don’t respond to reports of sexual assault because they don’t want to scare off prospective students and alumni, particularly when it comes to fraternity and student athletes. The film not only talks to students, but administrators, parents and even a former police officer at Notre Dame who offered accounts of how the school turned its back on rape cases.

 

How many college men are willing to commit sexual assault? January 10, 2015

From HuffPo:

Close to 1-in-3 collegiate males admitted in a recent study they would force a woman to sexual intercourse, but many would not consider that rape, Newsweek reports.

The survey found 31.7 percent of men said they would act on “intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse” if they could get away with it, but just 13.6 percent said they had “intentions to rape a woman” if there weren’t any consequences.

The authors of this study note the difference relies on whether or not they described what constitutes sexual assault, versus whether they simply called it rape. For this study, the researchers defined rape as “intercourse by use of force or threat of force against a victim’s wishes.”

. . . The team surveyed 86 male college students, most of whom were juniors and Caucasian, at one university. In addition to asking them about forced sexual intercourse and rape, the participants were quizzed on various items to determine whether they held hostile attitudes towards females. The researchers concede their sample size was small, and hope to expand on it, but Edwards told Newsweek, “the No. 1 point is there are people that will say they would force a woman to have sex but would deny they would rape a woman.”

Similar to the results of this survey of would-be perpetrators, victims are often found to shy away from identifying their experience of forced intercourse as rape. For example, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 17 percent of female undergraduates said in a survey they experienced unwanted sexual behaviors involving force, threat or incapacitation. But only 10 percent of those MIT women also said yes when asked if they were sexually assaulted, and just 5 percent said yes when asked if they were raped.

The study is here: “Denying Rape but Endorsing Forceful Intercourse: Exploring Differences Among Responders

 

‘Somewhere in America’

Filed under: beauty,body,class,education,gender,glbt,politics,race,rape,sexual assault — philodaria @ 5:46 am

Via Bustle, a spoken word performance:

“The trio of teenage girls start the poem ominously: ‘The greatest lessons you will ever teach us, you won’t even remember.’ From there, they jump into fairly controversial, dark topics like rape, race, gun control, socioeconomics, and censorship. Emotions rage so hard in the three-and-a-half-minute piece, occasionally you can spot a small vocal crack in the performance, but that just lends more validation to the truth they kept spouting. ‘Somewhere in America,’ ushers in the hard-to-hear stuff,  ‘Women are killed for rejecting dates, but God forbid I bring my girlfriend to prom.’ Another: ‘The preppy kids go thrifting because they think it sounds fun. But we go ‘cause that’s all we’ve got money for.’ “

 

Harvard Law found in violation of Title IX, reaches Resolution Agreement with OCR December 31, 2014

Following its investigation, OCR determined that the Law School’s current and prior sexual harassment policies and procedures failed to comply with Title IX’s requirements for prompt and equitable response to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The Law School also did not appropriately respond to two student complaints of sexual assault. In one instance, the Law School took over a year to make its final determination and the complainant was not allowed to participate in this extended appeal process, which ultimately resulted in the reversal of the initial decision to dismiss the accused student and dismissal of the complainant’s complaint.

During the course of OCR’s investigation, the Law School adopted revised procedures that use the “preponderance of the evidence” standard for its sexual harassment investigations and afford appeal rights to both parties, in compliance with Title IX. The Law School also complied with the Title IX requirements relating to the designation of a Title IX Coordinator and publication of its non-discrimination notice.

Read more here, and the resolution agreement can be read here.

 

Statement on CU-Boulder December 20, 2014

H/T Daily Nous, Carol Cleland, Alison Jaggar, Mi-Kyoung Lee, Claudia Mills, from CU Boulder have published a statement in the Daily Camera:

We are the tenured women professors, and a professor emerita, in the philosophy department at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Over the years, students and faculty in our department, mostly but not only women, have made numerous complaints about unprofessional behavior by certain members of the department.

Many of the complaints focused on sexual misconduct, but others included violations of harassment policy, including its anti-retaliation clause, and violations of the amorous relations policy. On its own, the department was unable to deal with these complaints — many of which were not formally reported because of fears of retaliation; in any case, by university and state regulations, professors are prohibited from undertaking investigations and sanctions on their own.

For this reason, we, and many of our colleagues, are grateful both to Andy Cowell, our external chair, as well as to the CU-Boulder administration, for taking strong and decisive action to investigate wrongdoing, for committing significant resources to punish those found in violation of university regulations, and for investing in the future of our department. Although the process has been and continues to be painful, we believe that the outcome will be positive.

We are in the process of stopping behavior that was harmful, especially to the women students and faculty in our department, and we are taking steps to make sure that in the future, such problems either will be prevented or, if they occur, will be addressed quickly and effectively. Although these measures may have temporarily damaged the reputation of our department in some quarters, we are confident that we can rebuild on stronger foundations.

We intend to repudiate a secret culture of misbehavior and to win back the confidence of prospective students and faculty on the basis of hard-won achievements with respect to the climate as well as the commitment of a solid core of faculty members to an inclusive and welcoming work environment for all.

//

 

Northwestern suspends plans to mediate, and a statement November 24, 2014

Huffington Post has the story here. 

And a statement from the student who is being sued:

“There has been so much in the news lately about the many and horrifying failings of university administrations’ dealing with Title IX issues. We are all familiar with these catastrophic miscarriages of justice, and frankly, we are all worn weary with worry and heartache. Today however, the Northwestern community has taken a real step in the direction of modeling what it’s like for a university to be an ally in the fight against sexual harassment and sexual assault. Today, in response to criticism from the student population, who were in turn vocalizing my objections as the graduate student named in Peter Ludlow’s lawsuit, Northwestern’s administration has agreed to halt all mediation proceedings with Ludlow’s attorneys. To be clear: I voiced my concerns, the broader Northwestern community mobilized on my behalf (in only 24 hours), and the administration heard our cry, in turn responding appropriately by suspending all mediation proceedings — this, while ordering hot chocolate for the student protestors, and helping them to put up their protest signs outside the president’s office.  The administration and I are now engaged in further discussions about my wishes and needs throughout this process.

Putting the victim first should not be such an uncommonly outstanding occasion. Yet in this moment, I feel compelled to sing loudly the praises of Northwestern’s administration. Let this be a message to all universities: Stand by your students, stand by your victims. Protect their voices. Together, let’s make Northwestern a model.”

 

Seduction, Assault, and Consent in Western Art via The Toast

Filed under: Arts,internet,sex,sexual assault,sexual harassment,violence — Stacey Goguen @ 7:45 pm

If you are not already aware of The Toast’s captioning of pictures from Western art history, it is a thing, and it is entertaining. You can find all the articles in the series here.

In one of the most recent posts, Mallory Ortberg pokes fun at what Wikimedia Commons has labeled instances of “seduction in art.”  She pulls out examples and describes how many of these cannot possibly be instances of “seduction,” unless by seduction we mean assault or harassment.

The piece does a good job of bringing out the cognitive dissonance from accepting “seduction” as aggressively pursuing someone for sex without their explicit consent, thinking that sex requires consent, and accepting seduction as a legitimate part of sex.

If you are not familiar with Ortberg’s series of posts on Western art history, you should note that some of these examples are more hyperbolic than others. She is framing many of these scenes as non-consensual where consent seems ambiguous. (Though part of her point may be, shouldn’t sex and seduction only involve people who are unambiguously excited about engaging in it?) Underneath the hyperbole and satire, Ortberg is posing a serious question: “Why does seduction look a lot like assault and not seem to require any real degree of consent? What kind of thing is seduction if these are what count as examples of it?”

She suggests, “Perhaps you have confused “pushing someone away from you” with “getting seduced.””

You can read the post here:

“Paintings That Wikimedia Commons Has Inaccurately Categorized As “Seduction In Art””

*A few of the pictures contain nudity.

 

Sexual Assault, UVA, and faculty acting in solidarity November 22, 2014

Filed under: improving the climate,sexual assault,violence,women in academia — philodaria @ 6:27 am

Many of you may have already read the heartbreaking Rolling Stone piece on sexual assault at University of Virginia. If you haven’t, here’s the lede:

Jackie was just starting her freshman year at the University of Virginia when she was brutally assaulted by seven men at a frat party. When she tried to hold them accountable, a whole new kind of abuse began.

And a snippet:

UVA’s emphasis on honor is so pronounced that since 1998, 183 people have been expelled for honor-code violations such as cheating on exams. And yet paradoxically, not a single student at UVA has ever been expelled for sexual assault.

“Think about it,” says Susan Russell, whose UVA daughter’s sexual-assault report helped trigger a previous federal investigation. “In what world do you get kicked out for cheating, but if you rape someone, you can stay?”

Attorney Wendy Murphy, who has filed Title IX complaints and lawsuits against schools including UVA, argues that in matters of sexual violence, Ivy League and Division I schools’ fixation with prestige is their downfall. “These schools love to pretend they protect the children as if they were their own, but that’s not true: They’re interested in money,” Murphy says. “In these situations, the one who gets the most protection is either a wealthy kid, a legacy kid or an athlete. The more privileged he is, the more likely the woman has to die before he’s held accountable.” Indeed, UVA is the same campus where the volatile relationship of lacrosse star George Huguely V and his girlfriend Yeardley Love was seen as unremarkable – his jealous rages, fanned by over-the-top drinking – until the 2010 day he kicked open her door and beat her to death.

Since the piece came out, a letter, which Slate reports has over 127 UVa faculty signatories, began circulating:

Dear President Sullivan,

We are all heartbroken and enraged after reading Wednesday’s article in Rolling Stone. The extreme violence that was reported is shocking and demands an unequivocal response that we will not tolerate violence against our students.

U.Va faculty, staff, and students have been debating how we might most effectively respond.

As an initial step, we propose a policy that institutes an immediate freeze on activities by any student organizations that are currently under investigation for sexual misconduct and sexual assault.

Further, we call on the Greek System to collectively and voluntarily suspend activities this weekend in light of recent events and out of respect for the survivors of sexual violence on our campus.

We believe this immediate action will be an important first step in sending the message that violence against our students will not be tolerated.  It will also send a clear message to fraternities, that if they stand by and fail to intervene in sexual violence, or if they knowingly do not report sexual violence, the activities of their fraternity will be suspended. 

We demand seeing this important response implemented,

Most faculty steer clear of Rugby Road on a Saturday night. Tomorrow, however, in response to the recent Rolling Stone article and to ongoing problems of sexual violence at the university, faculty and instructors from the University of Virginia are joining the party. We are planning an action for 11pm this Saturday on Rugby Road, following the home football game. The purpose of “Take Back the Party” is to protest a social culture that puts our female students at unacceptable risk. UVA faculty in all manner of academic dress will gather on Beta Bridge to demand a safe environment for women as well as for men.

I’m heartened by the response of UVA faculty members who were moved to act in solidarity with victims on their campus, and their desire to work towards change. Despite the brutality of sexual assault, the negative publicity it brings universities both when it happens and when it is not handled properly, and the legal protections offered by Title IX in the US, still, too often, universities treat both victims and perpetrators as if they were mere figures in a cost-benefit analysis. Still, too often it is easier for campus communities to look the other way. It can be difficult to know what to do, how you can help, or whether you have the power to make a difference, so it is encouraging to see the UVA faculty act with purpose and conviction.

 

 
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