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Senate asks administration to commit to ‘Dear Colleague’ letter

| Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Notre Dame student senate discussed a resolution proposed by McGlinn Hall senator Morgan Williams and Duncan Hall senator Steven Higgins on Wednesday night. The resolution supports the “Stand 4 IX Campaign,” a campaign led by sophomores Isabel Rooper and Elizabeth Boyle, asking the administration reaffirm Notre Dame’s commitment to Title IX.

According to the Stand for IX website, the campaign asks the administration to address four items: “one, commit to use the preponderance of the evidence standard in cases of sexual misconduct, regardless of changing federal guidelines; two, uphold a 60-day timeline of addressing Title IX cases; three, clarify new alternative resolutions policy and disallow mediation in cases of sexual misconduct, in accordance with previous federal guidelines; and four, create and publicize waivers from the six-semester housing requirement for survivors of sexual misconduct, violence or any other form of discrimination.”

Tuesday night, Fr. Jenkins was asked about several of these concerns during an address to the Faculty Senate.

Jenkins was asked if the University would continue to uphold the preponderance of evidence standard, as well as if survivors of sexual assault would be granted waivers for the policy requiring undergraduates to live on-campus for six semesters.

“I think the answer to the first one … is yes,” Jenkins said in response. “And the second is I think we’re developing those waivers and certainly that’s critical.”

Rooper, student government’s director of gender relations, answered a question about the value of alternative resolutions.

“We think other alternative resolutions are great because it gives the survivor to choose what kind of process is going to best fit them,” Rooper said. “And so that’s part of what we’re asking the university for — to tell us what those alternative resolutions are and could be.”

Higgins said the preponderance standard is fair to both parties in sexual assault cases.

“Rather than presuming one party is guilty, the standard puts parties on equal footing,“ he said.

Rooper was also given the opportunity to respond to whether the preponderance standard is fair to both sides and would be an adequate deterrent to possible false accusations of sexual misconduct.

“Just saying someone assaulted you is not 50 percent of evidence, it’s no evidence,” Rooper said. “There has to actually be evidence available. Additionally, schools don’t have the power to subpoena or force someone to testify about something that happened … so it’s a lot harder for universities to take the same steps that police can take.”

After discussion, the resolution was passed unanimously with no senators abstaining.

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