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Colleges to Take Tougher Policy on Date Rape

May 01, 1988|MARY BARBER | Times Staff Writer

The first signs of turbulence on the serene campuses of the Claremont Colleges were posters--dozens of them plastered in rows on the walls of dining halls, on the outsides of buildings and even on trees.

They appeared one February morning, all identical, with a photo of a Pitzer College student and text labeling him as a rapist.

This action by a new, secret women's organization led to meetings of angry students who accused the schools of ignoring complaints about date rape.

As a result, two of the five elite, private undergraduate colleges plan to rewrite their policies for student conduct to define date rape and establish penalties for students convicted of it in campus judicial proceedings.

In addition, all five colleges intend to step up programs warning students about date rape and acquaintance rape.

Could Be Expelled

The Pitzer student was ordered off campus until the college judicial proceedings began the week of April 11. If found guilty in these proceedings, conducted by students, faculty and administrators, he could be expelled.

The women's group, Sisters Protesting Ignorance, Rape and Lies (SPIRAL), took responsibility for the posters. Its anonymous members insisted in college newspaper articles that "no less than this radical act would bring this issue to the attention of the Claremont community."

"I hate to say this," said a college dean who asked not to be identified, "but the posters clearly stimulated a lot of activity. The way SPIRAL did things is not the way we want things done, but it got results."

As the first case of a student allegedly forcing sex on an acquaintance goes before Pitzer College's Judicial Council, both Pitzer and Pomona College are planning to rewrite their regulations.

No Charges Filed

Jack Sullivan, acting dean of students at Pitzer, said the women who accused the Pitzer student of raping them chose not to file charges with Claremont police. College deans say that some victims will not file charges because of embarrassment.

"We can only encourage them to do that, to make it as easy as possible, but if they refuse, there is nothing we can do," Sullivan said.

The same would hold true in cases of other assaults or felonies, Sullivan said. "I could report to police, but if the complainant refuses to file a charge, they can't enter the case."

But even if criminal charges aren't filed, campus judicial proceedings are in order because students are governed by codes of conduct, college officials said.

The proposed changes in college regulations would define all forms of sexual harassment and assault, speed judicial proceedings and establish specific penalties for cases of sexual harassment, including date and acquaintance rape. Penalties would include suspension and expulsion.

Endangerment Rules

Such cases are now covered in all the colleges' codes of conduct by regulations against endangering others through physical assault or harassment. Scripps, Claremont McKenna and Harvey Mudd colleges are not changing their policies but are offering special programs for incoming students, spokesmen said.

But some California colleges are considering rewriting their codes because of a resolution passed by the Legislature last September. The resolution, written by Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica), urges California colleges and universities to write new policies into their codes to define date rape, specifying penalties and providing special educational programs for freshmen.

In light of the Hayden resolution, Cal State Los Angeles is establishing regulations against sexual harassment, a spokesman said.

At Caltech, student codes do not specifically address date rape, spokesman Hall Daily said, but "awareness is growing more and more, and we're giving workshops and special sessions on sexual responsibility."

'Broader Categories'

Shannon Ellis, an administrative assistant at USC, said date rape falls "into broader categories that were written to cover things that might never be anticipated."

USC has handled such cases in campus judicial proceedings and has had "a small number of convictions," Ellis said.

In a recent study, the Assn. of American Colleges concluded that "date rape occurs on virtually all campuses, small or large, private or public, rural or urban."

In a 1985 study for Ms. magazine, Kent State University Prof. Mary Koss surveyed 7,000 students on 32 campuses and found that one-eighth of the women said they had been raped. Although one in every 12 male students admitted having tried to force or coerce women into sex, none of them identified themselves as rapists, according to the study.

Sullivan said that Pitzer's aim is to remove any possibility that "somehow date rate is viewed differently. Rape is rape. It can be committed by a date, an acquaintance or a stranger. The key issue is lack of consent."

Toni Clark, dean of women at Pomona College, said: "Essentially, date rape is unwanted sexual intercourse, but it's broader than that.

Date Rape Definition

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