An email was sent out on April 14th, to all Rhodes' students, faculty, and staff from Carol Casey, Dean of Students, reminding everyone what affirmative consent is. This is especially relevant because of the recent reports of sexual assaults and Rites of Spring being this weekend. With the spike in non-Rhodes students because of Rites of Spring and the combination of increased alcohol consumption because of the festivities, this reminder could not have come at a better time. The definition of affirmative consent, however, was not the only thing that was important in this email. Rhodes has announced they will be changing their Sexual Misconduct policy.
As some may remember, there was a petition circulating last semester written by the Culture of Consent demanding a mandatory expulsion policy be put in place for those who are found in violation of the Sexual Misconduct policy. According to Carol Casey over 1000 students signed this petition. Despite approximately half of the student body supporting mandatory expulsion, that was not the policy put in place. The new policy says "The hearing board will determine the sanctions, first considering whether expulsion (permanent removal) from the college is appropriate. While expulsion is the starting point for consideration, the hearing board has discretion to decide that different sanctions are appropriate." Some might read this and think that our job is done. That expulsion will be the first thing they consider and make it the most likely punishment. I doubt this will be the case.
This seems like a feel good policy change. There is nothing stopping the hearing board from just handling it as "Should we expel the person?" Immediately deciding not to expel with little consideration, and moving on because they say they considered it. There is no guarantee that Rhodes will expel anyone for violating the Sexual Misconduct policy. There is no guarantee that the hearing board will actually consider expelling students. Rapists re-offend. If someone is okay with violating someone else's body once, what is stopping a person from doing it again to someone else? With the addition of low reporting rates, people not being believed, back logged rape kits, and keeping rapists in the same place they offended the first time, why would a rapist assume they would be punished? If their victims do not report, there is no chance of them getting in trouble. But if victims report, they generally face backlash from somewhere else. It generally seems like a safer option for the victim to not report, but that is not the best for the community.
To the policy change, I say good try, but it was a swing and a miss. We need something better.