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UC Women Object to Settlement of Group Rape Case

November 28, 1986|Special to The Times

BERKELEY — As football fans carrying coolers and six-packs streamed into Memorial Stadium last Saturday for the traditional season-ending showdown between Cal and Stanford, Debbie McCann remained outside holding a sign.

"Rape is not a game," the 21-year-old philosophy student's sign said.

McCann and a dozen other women students outside the stadium were protesting the university's settlement a few days earlier of a group rape case involving four football players and an 18-year-old woman student at the University of California, Berkeley.

Women faculty and students have been as angered by the settlement--which included requirements that the players undergo counseling and perform 40 hours of community service but which did not affect their academic or athletic status--as they were by the initial charges and by the Alameda County district attorney's decision not to prosecute the case.

Sentence Considered Light

"Forty hours of community service? That's less than a parking ticket," said Mary Mazzocco, 27, a graduate student attending an anti-rape rally last week.

"The lesson is that the system doesn't help you, it only humiliates you," said Crissy Sullivan, 19, a member of a new anti-rape coalition that has held a series of picketing and rallies in the last week, including the demonstration outside the stadium.

A group of faculty members are drafting a letter to Chancellor I. Michael Heyman questioning the university's leadership in facing the problem of sexual assault on campus.

"Why has there been no moral statement on this from the university?" asked anthropology professor Laura Nader, one of the organizers of the letter. "The leadership should have been there right from the beginning, saying 'We will not tolerate this on campus.' "

Statement Issued

In response to those protests, Heyman on Wednesday issued a statement decrying "acquaintance rape" and ordering increased rape prevention services, including campus safety measures like more lighting and an increase in the number of escorts available to accompany students at night. He also promised that he and his 30-member staff would attend a rape prevention workshop.

The incident with the football players--one of six rapes and five attempted rapes reported to campus police this year--took place on a Saturday night in late September. A freshman woman who had been drinking heavily visited some male acquaintances in their suite. According to campus police, she willingly had sex with one of the men whom she had dated several times. Then she was forced to engage in intercourse and oral sex with three of his friends, she told police.

As in many cases of "acquaintance rape," the issue is not whether the sex acts took place, but whether they were consensual. The woman told police that the four men had forced her to take part in the acts, but the players told police that "no one held her down."

Matter of Perception

The players' attorney, G. William Hunter, acknowledged that sex acts took place between his clients and the woman, but said, "I think her perception of rape was after the fact."

Although the student was willing to testify against the men in court, Alameda County Dist. Atty. Martin Brown refused to press charges against the athletes.

"I believe that (the victim) was telling me the truth to the best of her recollection," he said. "However, that does not mean that she provided evidence for a chargeable offense."

The university, meanwhile, began internal disciplinary procedures against the four athletes that would have led to a confidential hearing before a faculty and student committee. Last week's arbitrated settlement, however, ended the hearing process before it began.

University student conduct officer Alan Kolling said the university would not have approved the settlement without the victim's consent.

Given the Alternatives

"The victim was advised about all the alternatives she had, and decided not to go to a hearing," Kolling said. "Whatever her reasons were--whether they were tactical or personal--she was fully advised."

University officials point to a number of procedures that exist to safeguard rape victims' rights, including a rape prevention center and a victims' advocate in the chancellor's office.

But the advocate, Frances Ferguson, an assistant to the vice chancellor, noted that other procedures designed to protect students' rights severely limit the university's actions against students accused of rape.

"We can't do what the dean of students used to do--call people in and yell at them and say, 'You're out of school,' " Ferguson said.

More Awareness

Public awareness of gang rape on campuses has increased in recent years. A 1985 report by the Assn. of American Colleges cited more than 50 such incidents across the country, many of them involving all-male social groups and a large number involving alcohol.

Some faculty members have called for a partial return to the in loco parentis role of an earlier era. They are demanding that sexual harassment and rape penalties be explicitly included in the student conduct code and that the university make greater efforts to control drinking and violence in the dormitories.

"In the 1960s, by taking the university off students' backs, we in effect created a jungle where might makes right," Nader said. "The whole question has to do with sexual violence related to drug and alcohol use in student living quarters."

Student protesters called for immediate security measures, such as improved campus lighting, but they said the problem goes deeper.

"Safety is a problem, the inadequacy of the hearing process on campus is a problem, but the biggest problem is an attitude problem," Debbie McCann said. "The heart of the problem is that a lot of people don't view acquaintance rape as bad as any other kind of sexual assault."

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