Shippensburg University requires any reported crimes of sexual misconduct to go through a disciplinary hearing but there is more than one choice for victims looking for justice
By: Julie Ratcliffe
SHIPPENSBURG- Victims of sexual violence have two options for justice. A victim can choose to file charges with the police or file a claim with the university and hand the proceedings to a disciplinary board.
A criminal trial may not be the best choice for someone looking for a quick response as criminal trials can take years to reach a final verdict.The University offers swift justice, if the board decides the claim is true then the attacker is suspended or expelled.
Unfortunately, that remedy can be insufficient, Director of the Women’s Center, Stephanie Erdice, says students can simply leave one campus and commit the same crime elsewhere.Because of FERPA laws, universities and colleges cant share why students were asked to leave but there are solutions in the making.
Erdice says other colleges are implementing ways to share information without breaking the privacy laws, Ship has not started doing this yet but they are planning on it.
Criminal trials use a judge, jury and lawyers to ensure fairness but in a University hearing the disciplinary board makes all the decisions. There are lower standards of proof in a board hearing and members only need to believe the accused is “more guilt than not”, contrary convincing a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” . Board members can also change and eliminate questions asked by anyone involved in the hearing. Connie Bertram, Psychology Professor and Disciplinary Board Member, say this rule is for the benefit of the victim. The board wants to avoid any questions that victim blame or shame.
Campus organizations like REACT is a peer education group specializing in sexual violence issue and is among the many campus organizations that act as victim advocates.
REACT member, Raff Iula say there is no real answer or correct choice for a victim. “I wish there was something that was like this is the right choice because it works so well and it gives the consequence to the person who deserve the consequence but there’ not that”. No matter which decisions someone makes, there will be pain but hopefully some sense of justice and closure.
University hearings and criminal trials offer advantages and disadvantages, the final choice comes down to what the victim wants. For those unsure which path to take, a criminal trial and a university hearing can happen simultaneously.