It has become a topic discussed and debated about all across the nation. Countless stories speak through ink on newspapers or glow through brightly backlit articles online. From the girl who carried her mattress at Columbia, to Brock Turner, campus sexual assault and the lack of action taken to solve the issues is a national discussion that won’t go away.
Last October, a student, anonymously called “John Doe” in he lawsuit, allegedly sexually assaulted a female student. Now, he is suing the university in an attempt to expunge his record and receive reparation for emotional damages.
It may seem like Rider’s actions were hasty and unfair to John Doe.However, it is important to note that most information available is one side of the story. That being said, the case presents a shift from the victim-blaming reaction sexual assault is usually met with.
The decision to expel this student serves two very important purposes — it shows that we are willing to protect our students, and serves as a very important lesson, especially to incoming freshmen.
As a new year begins and especially as freshmen begin to fill our campus, it is important to remember that alcohol awareness and sexual assault prevention does not end when you finish taking online courses such as ThinkLuv. These programs have given you the handbook. But only you can follow its instructions.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, freshmen and sophomores are at greater risk of being victims of sexual assault. They also report that sexual assaults are most likely to occur between September and November, the beginning of the semester, on weekends between the times of midnight and 6 a.m.
Drink responsibly. Don’t ever let your drunken friends get into situations you would avoid if you were sober. Sexual assault cannot be blamed on drinking too much or frivolous behavior, but it may be a good decision to watch the situations you or your friends stumble into.
And don’t put yourself in a situation where you take advantage of somone. While it’s important to not become the victim, it’s also important to never let yourself make choices that make you the assaulter either.
Rider’s Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy states that “a person who is asleep or mentally or physically incapacitated, whether due to the effect of drugs or alcohol, or for any other reason, is not capable of giving valid consent. Consent is not valid if a reasonable person would understand that such a person is incapable of giving consent.”
Always remember that consent is a black and white concept. You can only engage in sexual activity if both partners offer a clear, complete yes. Your partner cannot give you that clear yes if they are intoxicated. If you choose to take advantage of their inebriated state, much like the alleged sexual criminal may or may not have done, then your actions are immoral and what you may consider simple fun becomes sexual assault.
Last year, Rider’s administrators faced a barrage of scrutiny on how they handled the situation with Jon Cannon, a man who was allegedly sneaking into dorm rooms and touching female students. Nearly all students agreed that Rider just didn’t do enough to stop this from happening multiple times.
But this time, Rider took immediate action.
In addition, it’s prudent to point out that the standards of evidence for Mercer County are different than for Rider and that could lead to the discrepancy between Doe not being convicted of a crime but being expelled. Mercer County’s standard of evidence is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” whereas for Rider the standard is “more likely than not,” for sexual assault cases.
The Association for Student Conduct Administration states “each college or university must develop its own policies and procedures.” They also add that students and parents must understand that “campus proceedings are educational and focus on students’ relationships to the institution.”
Administrators were simply trying to protect our relationships with the university by offering more security.
An alleged sexual criminal poses a serious threat to anyone else living on campus. Other students could potentially become victims. Expelling John Doe is not an attack on him personally, but rather an attempt to safeguard this community.
All of us, especially the freshmen, should remember that we are all adults now, and this isn’t high school anymore. We make our own decisions. As such, we have to face our own consequences.
And none of us should forget that we attend a school that is willing to deal the punishments we may deserve for inexcusable behavior. Professors or administrators aren’t telling us what choices to make in our dorms at night. If we make the wrong choices, the fault lies with us alone.
The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh.
Printed in the 09/07/16 issue.