Brought to Light: Survivor Speaks, CJC Case Still Unfinished

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

This article is the first in a series of articles devoted to investigating sexual assault at Swarthmore College. In this series The Daily Gazette speaks with survivors, explains Title IX and federal law, analyzes college disciplinary processes, describes changes to college policies, researches sexual assault statistics and their meanings, and looks at educational programs and survivor services on campus.

Trigger Warning: This article addresses issues related to sexual violence.

As far as Swarthmore can remember, no one has ever been expelled for sexual misconduct. In fact, the College has never officially disciplined anyone for sexually harassing or assaulting another student.

The last public record of the College Judiciary Committee (CJC) meeting to consider charges of sexual misconduct was in Spring 2010. The public notice still hangs in the hallway on the first floor of Parrish Hall. It’s four sentences long and doesn’t give much detail about the case, only that on March 3, 2010 the student accused of sexual misconduct was found not guilty. All other details are confidential. It reads, “The committee was in consensus that there was insufficient evidence to determine that it was more likely than not that a violation occurred, and therefore the student was found not guilty.” 

In the past 10 years, which is as far back as the College has records, only one other case of sexual misconduct has made it through the CJC process. In that case, the student was found guilty in Spring 2011 for sexually assaulting another student. The College did put sanctions on him but could not comment on the specifics of their decision. Dean of Students Liz Braun said the most typical outcome of a guilty CJC finding for sexual assault would be a required withdraw from the College for a period of time, usually a year.

But there’s no public record of the 2011 case ever happening. In fact, for all intents and purposes, the accused left the College in good standing.

That’s because the case is not technically over. The student appealed the committee’s decision and was granted a new committee hearing. But before he went through his second hearing, he withdrew from the College and transferred to another school. Now his case sits in limbo. As long as he doesn’t ask to return to Swarthmore, he will never have to go through the appeals process or tell anyone he was found guilty of sexual misconduct.

Despite the original verdict being nullified, the survivor said she’s glad she went through the CJC process.

“What I do know is I stood up for myself,” said P, who asked that we not use her name. “The first part of the CJC process was empowering. There was a guilty finding, [and] the outcome is that he is no longer on campus today.”

Yet her story reveals serious flaws in the College’s procedures for handling sexual assault. In the four months it took to resolve her case, P faced a disorganized and unsympathetic administration. Deans made mistakes regarding confidentiality, questioned her experience, and couldn’t, ultimately, hold her perpetrator accountable.

Some of the disorganization and confusion of the administration P describes could be attributed to the timing of updates to Title IX. Just weeks before P reported her assault, the U.S. Department of Education released the “Dear Colleague” letter, reminding colleges and universities of their obligation to protect students from sexual assault. It has been the reason colleges across the country, including Swarthmore, have overhauled their sexual misconduct policies and procedures. But when P’s case arrived, the college hadn’t made institutional changes. They were still using their old policies while trying to uphold a law they didn’t yet understand.

P’s story begins in early April 2011. She has trouble talking about the details of her assault because it causes her to have flashbacks. What she did share is that in early April 2011 she went back to another student’s room after an on-campus party. She told him no multiple times, but he didn’t stop. She left his room confused and distraught. She spent the night in a friend’s room, and texted several close friends to tell them something had happened. She didn’t tell them she had been sexually assaulted, just that something bad had happened—something that she didn’t know how she was going to deal with.

She said that the next day, she blamed herself for what had happened. She shouldn’t have drank at the party. She shouldn’t have worn what she wore. She had been warned about him. She shouldn’t have gone back to his room. She should have tried to leave sooner. 

“I really wanted to take responsibility for what happened, so I needed to blame myself,” P said.

Her friends encouraged her to meet with First-year Dean Karen Henry ‘87, then in charge of working with survivors of sexual assault, abuse, and rape. P said she went to Henry for counseling and emotional support, to figure out what had happened to her.

Henry wasn’t new to working with survivors; it’s the work she’d been doing for most of her career. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from Temple University and was hired by the College in 1993 as the first Gender Education Advisor. Henry is also a survivor herself.

During her time as the Gender Education Advisor, Henry says she provided support and advocacy for students separate from the CJC and other administrative action. In addition, she also served as the advisor to the Sexual Misconduct Advisors Resource Team (SMART), the Acquaintance Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) group, the student support group for survivors of sexual trauma Swat Survivors, and to the Women’s Center.

But P said instead of counseling, Henry gave her a “cold, administrative” response. P says in their first meeting, Henry asked her probing questions, having her go through all the details of her assault. P says she was made to feel uncomfortable by what she thought were inappropriate remarks such as Henry asking her how many drinks she had had and then telling her that was quite a bit for a woman of her size.

P says Henry acted surprised at P’s sexual inexperience and told her she may be confused about what had happened. P says Henry told her she seemed to be a “sheltered” and “repressed” person.

Henry is not able to discuss details of particular students’ cases but did say that it is possible students might recall conversations they had had with her very differently.

“I can say something and it can always be heard in a different way than I meant it,” Henry said.

She said in her role serving survivors of sexual assault she has always tried to be an advocate for students. She said she has never tried to persuade a student to take a particular action or to discredit her or his experience.

“As a survivor myself, it’s always challenging to have my integrity questioned,” Henry said. “I didn’t enter into the job to make things difficult for students. In the time that I did that job I met some incredible students who have overcome some incredible trauma.”

Henry no longer serves as the dean assigned to supporting survivors of sexual harassment and violence and is no longer a confidential reporting resource. She says she enjoyed the work but wanted to explore other facets of her job as a dean. In Fall 2011, when the College overhauled its policies and procedures addressing assault, Director of Health Services Beth Kotarski stepped up to fill the role of an administrative advisor and advocate to survivors.

When P met with Henry, she was only seeking counseling. Instead, she was asked to report her assault, a process P said wasn’t clearly explained to her. Only after P told Henry everything that had happened, did Henry tell her she was non-confidential reporting source and would have to report the assault. 

“[She] started pressuring me to report this, and then I said I don’t know if I’m comfortable doing that,” P said. 

P says Henry ended up giving her what felt like an ultimatum. P says Henry told her she should take a couple days to think about it and then tell her if it was really assault or just a misunderstanding. If she thought it was assault, she would have to report it.

“Either I had to lie and tell her I wasn’t sexually assaulted or I had to go through this reporting process, and I didn’t know what it entailed,” P said.

When P returned to talk to Henry to tell her that she was certain it was sexual assault, P says Henry accused her of changing her mind and said P might be relying too much on what her friends thought.

P said she was originally opposed to going through any sort of formal procedures, was even uncertain how successful her case would be. She definitely didn’t want to make a criminal complaint because she didn’t have a rape kit or any sort of evidence besides her word.

“I understand why a lot of people don’t come forward because it was my word versus his,” P said. “I know that I said no multiple times. I know that was ignored, but it’s not like there’s any way to prove that.”

It should not be difficult to find a student guilty of sexual misconduct. According to College policy set by Title IX regulations, the CJC must only determine it was more likely than not that a violation occurred. 

P said she mainly just hoped it was a one time drunken mistake. She doesn’t believe in accidental sexual assault, but she wanted to believe that it wouldn’t happen.

Then two other women told her that he had also assaulted them. She decided that she needed to report her assault and go through the CJC process.

“I realized that this was not a one time drunken mistake. This guy is a serial rapist,” P said. “I thought this would happen again, and I felt like I had a duty to do whatever I could to protect other women at Swarthmore.”

Together the three went to Associate Dean of Student Life Myrt Westphal, who moderates CJC cases and counsels students through the process, to see if they could bring a joint case against their perpetrator. P said they had to speak to Westphal in terms of hypotheticals because if they said anything particular, Westphal, as a non-confidential resource, would have to report it.

Under the new policy changes, reporting sexual assault means the Title IX coordinator will document the report and start an investigation. Survivors can then use the summary of the Title IX Coordinator’s investigation in a CJC case, but only if they choose to proceed with formal resolution. During P’s time, it’s still unclear what reporting meant.

“It was very difficult to get advising on what to do because no one could actually advise you. If they knew something about it they’d have to do something about it,” P said.

Westphal told them multiple people cannot bring complaints against a single individual for sexual assault unless the assaults happened at the same time. That meant, each woman would have to proceed independently.

Not wanting to be in a room with him and feeling the entire process would be too much for them to go through alone, P says the other two survivors decided drop their complaints against him. P said she was also terrified of going through the CJC process but said she couldn’t let herself drop it knowing he was still a danger to other women on campus.

P said she was having panic attacks whenever she saw him.

“I remember counting the number of days I could go without seeing him, which I don’t think I made it past three,” P said. “You go to McCabe, you see him. You go to Sharples, you see him. You walk across campus, you see him.” 

The CJC is not an easy process. Students are advised to bring witnesses. At the time, they had to write official statements, a role now filled by Sharmaine LaMar, the Title IX coordinator. Most difficult, survivors must say explicitly what happened to them in front of their perpetrators and the entire CJC committee made up of faculty, staff, and students.

Everything about the CJC process is completely confidential; the conversations leading up to it, the proceedings, and the outcomes, except the final finding that is posted by the administration. In telling her story, P is risking possible disciplinary action from the administration, though she has withdrawn most specific information regarding her case.

In an email to The Daily Gazette, Braun wrote that she has never dealt with anyone breaking CJC confidentiality, so she couldn’t say what the administration could or would do if a student broke confidentiality. Braun stated that she would encourage anyone who had concerns about the CJC to talk to herself or Westphal.

“The confidentiality is a cornerstone of the process and I sincerely hope that any student . . . would maintain this confidentiality,” Braun wrote.

At meetings that can last for over two hours, survivors of sexual assault must also hear their perpetrators’ testimony and answer questions from the committee in front of the perpetrator. While, according to Westphal, neither party is “generally” allowed to question each other. They may, however, address what the other said in written or oral testimonies. For example, a perpetrator or survivor may circle back to challenge a statement by the other in answering a question from the CJC board.

“A lot of survivors I’ve talked to don’t want to go to the CJC because they’ll be facing this person, and I don’t think people realize how traumatic that is,” P said. “Even being in a room with the door shut for two hours seemed like a terrifying thing.”

P said she decided to go through with her case alone, but she would only be allowed to talk about her specific case. She would not be able to tell the committee about other instances of assault she knew about.

She said the process leading up to the hearing was grueling and confusing. P was advised to bring witnesses.

When alcohol is involved, the deans may advise having a friend serve as a witness to answer questions about how much a student had been drinking and how inebriated that student was.

She said she and her witnesses were required to write formal statements that he was able to read a week and a half before the hearing. He wasn’t required to write a statement, and she only received his witness list a day before the hearing. 

P said she challenged the permissibility of one of his witnesses.

Since her case, the College has created a “Wheel of Resources” outlining confidential resources on campus, which include religious advisors. Counselors, SMART Team members, Worth Health Center Personnel, and the Drug and Alcohol interventionist are also listed as confidential reporting sources. According to the law, religious advisors and health professionals are considered privileged sources, and it’s illegal for them to break confidentiality.

“That was a big thing with the CJC, everything I brought to them they were like oh, we’ve never had this problem before,” P said.

According to Braun, the College began reviewing its processes in the Spring and Summer 2011 and rolled them out officially in Fall 2011. Since the “Dear Colleague” letter was published Swarthmore has created the Title IX Coordinator position charged with investigating every report of sexual harassment and has begun sending out a campus-wide email once a semester detailing resources for survivors of sexual misconduct.

“It was an awkward time,” P said. “They told me they didn’t know how to deal with the Title IX stuff.” 

Meanwhile, P said she was struggling with her academics. She said members of the administration advised her to go home if she wasn’t able to keep up with her work.

“I was having a hard time doing my work and even going to class,” P said.

The hearing was scheduled to happen during finals week that spring. P says the deans struggled to find enough committee members available for the hearing and asked her if she could postpone it until the fall. The thought of going all summer with it hanging over her head and then have to go through the CJC process the first week back to school was unbearable. 

Instead, she took incompletes in all her classes and the deans rounded up enough members for a hearing. She said she is appreciative of the administration for letting her take incompletes and finish her work after the hearing was over.

When she entered the room on the day of the CJC case, they had positioned the chairs so P would be sitting directly across the table from her perpetrator. P said her friend who came with her for support suggested they rearrange the seating so that they were on opposite corners of the table, a set-up Westphal says is standard now in CJC hearings. 

When she was asked to share her story, she said she was able to look at her support person the entire time and didn’t need to look at him. 

“Being in a room with him was horrible, but it was really great when I realized I could say what happened and he could lie all he wanted but he couldn’t shut me up,” P said.  “I thought it was really empowering.” 

The committee found him guilty and had put sanctions on him. P said she was ready to go home, finish the work for her incomplete courses, and begin healing from the trauma. But in June, she received an email from the Deans saying the man who assaulted her had appealed the decision. She says the administration did not give her a copy of the appeal.

“It was the worst summer of my life. I spent the whole summer with this hanging over my head. It was horrible because I went home thinking he’d [been sanctioned], things will be okay, and now I can finally process this trauma and move on,” she said.

The student handbook states that either party may appeal a decision made by the CJC to the president or the provost within 10 business days of receiving the written decision of the CJC. Students are only allowed to appeal a case if there is new evidence to consider or if there was a procedural error made by the hearing panel. Westphal said students could also appeal the decision if they felt the hearing panel had misinterpreted the College’s rules. 

In the case of an appeal, the president would form a new panel, the members of which are not required to be members of the CJC. She would also appoint a new moderator, or convener, and observer. Generally the panel would consist of two students and two faculty. They may either affirm or turn over the original decision, and may increase or decrease sanctions. In any case, their decision is absolutely final. 

P is not allowed to say on what grounds he was able to appeal his case.

According to Braun, since the case, the College’s definition of sexual assault has been rewritten. Braun said the College rewrote the definition of sexual assault to be clearer during the summer 2011 policy overhauling. 

“If you look at the definition it has some clear bullet points underneath it. It was more explanatory than what we had had in the past which I think had felt too vague,” Braun said.

In regards to P’s case, Westphal could not confirm details specific to his appeal but said that students must only verbally indicate that they wish to appeal and either party may ask for more time to consult with family or to think about it.

She also wasn’t sure what the appeals process would be. But one thing was certain: she would have to go back into a room with her perpetrator and tell her story again.

In her email, Westphal wrote that in the case of an appeal, the new hearing panel would hear the case from the very beginning.

“I think it’s horrible. It [drove] me crazy to think that [the administration] would even consider making me go in a room with him again three months later and do this whole thing again, but I [said I would] do it if I need to,” P said. “I said I would not back down. I will do this again if I have to.”

She said she wasn’t given much information from the administration when she called trying to figure out what was going to happen. Because students can make verbal appeals, there is not always a written document detailing by the appealing party on what grounds an appeal is made. Until they went through the appeals process, which was still unclear to P, they told her they wouldn’t know if he would be back on campus in the fall or not. 

By mid-July she still didn’t know what the outcome was. She said she had talked with her parents and decided that if he returned to campus, she would transfer to another college. The appeals committee was not set to meet until that fall.

“I [couldn’t] imagine coming back [the next] year and having to do this whole thing again,” P said.  “Basically coming back to campus with the knowledge that at the end of the day one of us was not going to go to Swarthmore anymore.”

It was too late to apply to transfer or apply for an internship for the fall. She said she was stuck, and couldn’t do much of anything except wait.

“You don’t know what the hell you should be doing with your life,” P said.

At the end of July, they told her he had withdrawn from the College.                                                                                                                  

Yes, she wasted a summer. Yes, the process was disorganized. And yes, the committee’s finding of guilt no longer stands. Yet she says she was happy she did it. 

“I think it was an imperfect process, but I wouldn’t want people to feel discouraged about reporting or going forward with the CJC proceeding,” P said. 

But the CJC does not, or at least did not, have a strong reputation among the survivor community and even the administration. Braun said when she was hired one of the main issues she was tasked with improving was the CJC process, specifically for students of sexual assault. 

“I was asked about [it] even when I came for my interview,” Braun said. “I heard a lot of feedback right from the start from students concerned with both resources related to sexual assault and some of the policies, the processes, [and] transparency. It was a recurring theme in a way.” 

In the seven years that Westphal as served as the dean tasked with advising students on the CJC, she says she’s met with at least seven students who asked about how the process worked and has counseled at least seven other students who began the process but did not finish it.

The number is strikingly low when compared to statistics from one study cited by the U.S. Department of Education that states 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted during their college career.

In the next article, The Daily Gazette speaks with another survivor, investigates how the Clery Act affects the College’s policies, and takes a closer look at barriers to reporting and bringing a case to the CJC.

Photo Illustration by Max Nesterak/The Daily Gazette


  1. “Westphal told them multiple people cannot bring complaints against a single individual for sexual assault unless the assaults happened at the same time. That meant, each woman would have to proceed independently.”

    Can anyone explain the reasoning behind this rule? Because it seems to me that multiple accusations of assault would be VERY relevant to the proceedings.

    • I have had this same issue as well. In essence, what I have been told by the Title IX coordinator is that even if a person has had multiple investigations against them, each individual case must be brought before the CJC separately. If the Title IX coordinator finds that multiple complaints have been brought against the same individual, and finds in the course of the investigation that there seems to be a pattern of behavior, then it is possible for the Title IX coordinator to open a CJC case based on those investigations. (After an investigation is completed, there is a written report–and those reports are then submitted as the evidence.) The sense that I got through this process was that they basically NEVER do this, and if an individual survivor doesn’t feel like bringing a case then the case will never be brought.

      What does this mean for our community?

      That I KNOW my assailant assaulted other people after assaulting me. But because I know that my individual case doesn’t have enough evidence to see my assailant sanctioned, all I would accomplish by opening a CJC case would be to make myself a target of reprisal.

      This is a problem, and we need to fix it. We need a better policy in place for situations where multiple individuals are affected. The policy as it stands now is wishy-washy and the guidelines for dealing with repeat offenders are completely inadequate.

  2. Daily Gazette, thank you for reporting this. This is probably the best bit of journalism I’ve seen on this campus in a long time…or ever.

    P, I don’t have the words to say how thankful I am for you sharing your story. You are such a badass, I can’t even…

  3. Thank you for writing this series. I hope it will help all of us push for a change from administration.

    And thank you, P, for sharing your story. You help every survivor on campus by doing so.

    • the people who are downvoting the comments on this article are either psycopaths devoid of moral reasoning and civility or are sexual perpetrators (CRIMINALS) themselves.

      yes, you sexual perpetrators, at Swarthmore and on all college/university campuses, are CRIMINALS and you will live with that shame for the rest of your lives.

      • Perpetrators are criminals, but they generally have very little shame to deal with. I don’t even know if the person who assaulted me knows that he did. There is no education on consent, and there is a lot of social capital in being part of rape culture.

    • Seeing as the only comments with downvotes (at the moment) are those from Hope and I, I assume that those downvoting don’t like our stances wrt to Greek Life and our involvement with SwatVoteYes.

      I don’t want to hijack this comment thread, so I’ll just say that I would prefer if people stopped downvoting supportive comments. Survivors, like P, deserve better.

      • I think calling yourself a social pariah is a bit of an exaggeration, no?

        Also, the amount of upvotes or downvotes a comment has should have no bearing on how people interpret the content itself, so why put any weight into them at all? It’s also not as if a comment disappears when it goes below a certain threshold, like it does on Reddit, so downvotes aren’t some form of censorship either. This is more for the alum who commented below (I pray to God that this person isn’t actual serious), but it seems silly to put so much stock into such an arbitrary system. Perhaps the DG would be smart to do away with it altogether.

        Lastly: “Hot debate” what do YOU think?”

  4. this happened three years ago. i’m not saying it’s not valuable, beause it definitely is, but things have changed since then. i would find an explanation of current policies and procedures more informative than an old complaint. we all know there used to be major problems, let’s hear about what’s happening now

    • You can write it off as an old complaint, but the truth is, experiences like P as regards to her dealings with the administration continue. This “old complaint” is still relevant.

      I agree that it would be useful to have an explanation of current policies and changes.

  5. Hey, Also…

    Thanks for pointing this out, the CJC reports often go up very late, if at all. The current report from a spring 2010 case that’s in Parrish is from my hearing, and I had to go to several deans several times for it to be put up.

    Also, I would love to be involved with this series. Who do I contact?

    • Dear “To make matters worse,”

      Thanks for reaching out. You can email me at mnester1@swarthmore.edu.

      If there are others who would also be willing to talk about their experiences, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

      Thank you,

      Max Nesterak ’13
      Co-Editor in Chief

  6. Dear P,
    Thank you for your bravery and strength. I hope you know how much love and support is directed your way!

  7. I really do hope Dean Braun and President Chopp read this article. I hope everyone at Swarthmore reads this.

    The Greek life and sexual assault issue that has been argued this past year and is continuing to be argued is one that is deeply connected to the administration’s lack of guidance, lack of transparency, and lack of severe punishment (yes, this means expulsion, this means it’s going on your record for life, and grad schools and employers will see it).

    The administration needs to send a message to sexual perpetrators and “to-be” sexual perpetrators and criminals: “The consequences of your crime are very SEVERE. Think before you act.”

  8. Thank you P for being so wonderfully brave, and thank you Daily Gazette for an excellent article. I hope that both the article and its subject, P, take pride in how astonishingly quickly this got the attention of the administration (better late than never, I suppose). I’ve had my qualms with the DG over the course of this semester, but this is an extraordinary bit of journalism, particularly in light of what’s going on over at the Phoenix. I look forward to the continuation of the series.

  9. Thank you so much, P, for sharing your experience and allowing it to be read by the Swarthmore community. I can’t emphasize enough how brave, impressive, and powerful it is for a survivor to be willing to share their story in a forum like a CJC meeting – I was assaulted in high school and can’t bring myself to walk within 3 blocks of where it happened – so I am totally in awe of the strength it takes to go through a process that requires you to be consistently in the same space (the campus, and then the hearing room) as someone who carries such terrible memories for you. I hope our community takes concrete steps to acknowledge the importance of engaging in such a process, and that we each do everything we can to support the individuals who make themselves so vulnerable through this process. When a survivor speaks out, and when a community is confronted with the fucked-up, difficult truth of so many experiences, it empowers all of us.

  10. P,

    You seem to me to have been and continue to be an extraordinary person. Thank you for sharing your story and sharing it during one of the most volatile and, frankly, ugliest moments at Swarthmore I can remember (although I am watching from the outside, so mountains of salt, please).

    Your desire to protect your community, your bravery in facing your own pain and your courage in speaking truths Swatties, administrators and society work to mute and murder are the values I hoped I’d find from this college.

  11. Wow. Thank you, P, for speaking out. You are so brave. And thank you, DG, for publishing this. I graduated in 2011 and had multiple friends sexually assaulted within an academic year. One was assaulted by a repeat offender. My friends’ personal interactions and conversations the administration (namely, Karen Henry) were similarly very negative and dis-empowering. I couldn’t believe it at first, since I thought Swat would be different from other schools and would have less of a rape culture. Wrong. Swarthmore may market itself as progressive and tackling issues of injustice, but there are just as many internal problems with way that sexual assault is handled by the administration. I hope that this article is one of many steps that will lead to some real, concrete changes that will make the college a safer place.

  12. Just wondering–does anyone know if there is active support for the collecting of rape kits (IF the individual chooses) and also if they choose, using that evidence to prosecute the individual through the criminal justice system? I understand that’s separate from any Swarthmore administration ruling on whether the perpetrator should be allowed to stay on campus, but seems like a much more straight forward method to get history on the record. However, I understand why some survivors might be reluctant to do this, and strongly feel that there ought to be a systematic, fair way for their concerns to be addressed outside of contacting the Police.

    • Dear K,

      Thank you for your questions/concerns. These will be addressed in later articles. There are a multitude of reasons for why survivors do and do not pursue criminal charges outside of the College’s judiciary processes. For now, I can answer your question regarding rape kits. Rape kits are not provided at Worth because it’s an extensive, expensive process that requires a special license. In their interview with me, Dean of Students Liz Braun and Title IX Coordinator Sharmaine LaMar said the College would provide transportation to the nearest hospital that provides rape kits to students who wish to have one taken.

      Thank you,

      Max Nesterak ’13
      Co-Editor in Chief

  13. Who chooses the student on the CJC? knew one student on the committee (or it may have been SJC) and, to be quite honest, I wouldn’t want him on a sexual assault case. How are students chosen for this process? Is it an Admin or StuCo appointment? I feel like that’s another problematic part of this whole process.

    • I’d also love to know more about the CJC selection process. I would hope it is significantly different and much more rigorous that other committee appointments.

      • Dear Alum and Alison,

        As the current Appointments Chair, I hope I can give some insight into the CJC appointment process. The students appointed to the College Judiciary Committee are selected through the Appointments Process, carried out by the Appointments Chair of Student Council, an elected position. Similar to the other Committees at Swarthmore, applicants follow the standard protocol of filling out the regular application. Based on the strength of their application, applicants are granted an interview with the five StuCo members of the Appointments Committee.

        As we are currently in the midst of selecting 7 new members for the CJC, I can assure that the weight of the CJC means that special, rigorous care is taken to appoint strong members. Members also go through a training session, which I believe is currently run by Dean Myrt Westphal, during the first of their three semesters.

        All this said, we are certainly open to greater discussions of how the hiring process can be improved, and there is always room for feedbac constructive improvements to be made. You can contact me at yqu1 with any comments or questions you may have.

        Yuan Qu
        Appointments Chair

        • With all due respect, the appointments process has always been shoddy. All the appointments chairs claim due diligence, but that has historically not been the case. Why should we believe you now?

          • Dear Alum,

            I realize that words are just words until we’ve proven that due diligence has been made, but in what ways do you feel that the Appointments Process has been shoddy in the past? If you, or anyone else for that matter, could specifically describe the issues and weaknesses you have encountered with the Process, I would be happy to address your concerns and also look at how the Appointments Process could be strengthened. I, after all, am a student just like you were, and want to create and maintain a fair, strong system. I would be grateful of any feedback.

    • You can apply to the CJC during the committee appointments cycle (which happens once a semester, I think. Someone correct me if I’m wrong). In the email that Yuan (the current StuCo appointments chair) sent out in early April and again last Saturday, there were seven or eight positions available on the CJC. (I’m including the committee description below.)

      I don’t know much about this as anything other than as an applicant (for several committees), but I’m curious about what special process you’d propose for these appointments/in what way the current one is problematic. I think, as with many selection processes, the quality of the selected committee members depends on the both the number and quality of the applicants. The application deadline is extended almost every cycle because fewer people apply than the number of vacant positions. I think that there are a lot of issues worth raising about the way that cases of sexual assault are handled on this campus, but the committee appointment process is reasonably transparent.

      “College Judiciary Committee The CJC is a part of the College judicial system addressing infractions of College regulations including all formal charges of academic dishonesty, assault, harassment or sexual misconduct. It is composed of faculty, administrators and students who have undergone training for this role. A term is three semesters and student members may be asked to serve after their term is over should the need arise. Dean Myrt Westphal chairs the committee.

      All students are welcome to apply.

      Time Commitment: One short meeting in the fall for training. The CJC’s schedule is dictated by how many cases are brought to it in a given semester. Generally there are no more than three cases a year, each taking about 3-4 hours.

      For more information, please contact Myrt Westphal (mwestph1)”

      From http://swatappointments.wordpress.com/the-committees/

  14. P, you are wonderful and brave and strong and all good things. Please stay that way. The world needs more people like you.

    Max, you’re pretty freakin’ great too. Looking forward to the rest of the series!

  15. P, I am so incredibly grateful that you spoke out, for the benefit of the whole college community.

    Also major kudos to Max for putting this article and series together. I appreciate how you wrote with such respect for P and her experiences, but also offered the most nuanced view of the CJC and administration members I’ve yet seen. Too often we students become angry and jaded towards the deans and such, but this fairly treats the good and the bad, as well as the improvements that have been made in recent years.

    In my four years at Swarthmore, this is the finest piece of student journalism I’ve yet seen.

  16. If you are sexually assaulted and want evidence to be collected, do not take a shower or bath or otherwise wash yourself. If it involves anything oral, do not drink water, brush your teeth, or rinse your mouth. Proceed directly to the nearest hospital ER. They will either have a nurse specially trained to do a rape kit, or call in someone else who is trained.

    The ER should also call the police to make a report. If you call the police first, then they should arrange transportation immediately to an ER. Remember not to wash in any way. Samples are taken from all over your body, including your hair. Be prepared to also give blood and urine samples, and samples to determine the presence of STDs.

    It is a long process but the only way to get physical evidence. The nurses doing the rape kit are also generally trained to be sensitive to the issues involved.

    • With no physical evidence, then it is “he said, she said” which does not seem consistent with the legal system as it applies to rape. Protections are not in place for the accused, which would appear to undercut the justice system.

      I do not see how there can be a different standard than that applied to the rest of society, just because it is a college campus.

      Students need to be educated about how to get physical evidence documented. I would think that many colleges would be reluctant to draw conclusions about an incident between students without physical evidence. Personally, I would, although I am sure that is not a popular position.

      • Dear “from a medical perspective,”

        This question will be addressed more thoroughly in future articles.

        For now, I can tell you that indeed, there is a different standard for colleges and other educational institutions. According to the “Dear Colleague” letter published by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, in order to be in accordance with Title IX, college judiciary processes are prohibited from having the same standard of proof as the court system. They state colleges can only require a standard of “more likely than not,” or 51 percent certainty.

        It reads:
        “In order for a school’s grievance procedures to be consistent with Title IX standards, the school must use a preponderance of the evidence standard (i.e., it is more likely than not that sexual harassment or violence occurred). The “clear and convincing” standard (i.e., it is highly probable or reasonably certain that the sexual harassment or violence occurred), currently used by some schools, is a higher standard of proof. Grievance procedures that use this higher standard are inconsistent with the standard of proof established for violations of the civil rights laws, and are thus not equitable under Title IX. Therefore, preponderance of the evidence is the appropriate standard for investigating allegations of sexual harassment or violence.”

        Thank you,

        Max Nesterak ’13
        Co-Editor in Chief

        • Thank you, Max. Ironically, there was an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week by the mother of a student who was accused of sexual assault. Here is a link and excerpts. The article agrees with my instincts about this process occurring without the protections inherent in the US justice system:


          A Mother, a Feminist, Aghast
          Unsubstantiated accusations against my son by a former girlfriend landed him before a nightmarish college tribunal.

          “I am a feminist. I have marched at the barricades, subscribed to Ms. magazine, and knocked on many a door in support of progressive candidates committed to women’s rights. Until a month ago, I would have expressed unqualified support for Title IX and for the Violence Against Women Act.

          But that was before my son, a senior at a small liberal-arts college in New England, was charged—by an ex-girlfriend—with alleged acts of “nonconsensual sex” that supposedly occurred during the course of their relationship a few years earlier…

          Across the country and with increasing frequency, innocent victims of impossible-to-substantiate charges are afforded scant rights to fundamental fairness and find themselves entrapped in a widening web of this latest surge in political correctness. Few have a lawyer for a mother…

          Thankfully, I happen to be an attorney and had the resources to provide the necessary professional assistance to my son. The charges against him were ultimately dismissed but not before he and our family had to suffer through this ordeal…

          There are very real and horrifying instances of sexual misconduct and abuse on college campuses and elsewhere. That these offenses should be investigated and prosecuted where appropriate is not open to question. What does remain a question is how we can make the process fair for everyone.

          I fear that in the current climate the goal of “women’s rights,” with the compliance of politically motivated government policy and the tacit complicity of college administrators, runs the risk of grounding our most cherished institutions in a veritable snake pit of injustice—not unlike the very injustices the movement itself has for so long sought to correct. Unbridled feminist orthodoxy is no more the answer than are attitudes and policies that victimize the victim.”

        • from a medical perspective:

          The article you quoted is terrifying in its victim-shaming. Let’s take a look!

          “Across the country and with increasing frequency, innocent victims of impossible-to-substantiate charges are afforded scant rights to fundamental fairness and find themselves entrapped in a widening web of this latest surge in political correctness. ”

          1. Attributing increased awareness of sexual violence to the term “political correctness” is very dismissive. Calling them “impossible-to-substantiate charges” essentially states that there’s no point in standing up to sexual violence in court.
          2. This paragraph reverse victimizes the charged assailants and silences the actual victims. How is it that the offender is “entrapped in a widening web” and “afforded scant rights”? Did we not just read this article about the injust mishandling of sexual violence cases at Swarthmore? The offender and the victim both go through the process: one is traumatized and the other doesn’t get to claim that they are.

          “I fear that in the current climate the goal of “women’s rights,” with the compliance of politically motivated government policy and the tacit complicity of college administrators, runs the risk of grounding our most cherished institutions in a veritable snake pit of injustice—not unlike the very injustices the movement itself has for so long sought to correct. Unbridled feminist orthodoxy is no more the answer than are attitudes and policies that victimize the victim.””
          1. This is the 21st century, women’s rights is no longer a thing that can be used with quotations.
          2. Your application of this article is quite funny since it assumes there’s a system in place to indeed protect victims of sexual violence and thus can somehow oppress the offender in its efficiency. That’s not true! Firstly, because that’s not how oppression works (if the victim is still being oppressed by the oppressor, the oppressor can’t claim to be a victim) and secondly, because Swarthmore sucks at protecting victims of sexual violence.
          3. The attribution of “unbridled feminist orthodoxy” to the promotion and protection of sex as consensual is dismissive and nonsensical. Your article’s further claim that protecting victims of sexual violence is something that “runs the risk of grounding our most cherished institutions in a veritable snake pit of injustice” is laughable since the only party that would be served any disadvantage by a working sexual violence legal system would be the offenders…and in that case it would ground the system in a veritable snake pit of justice. Which sounds totally awesome in my view

  17. Just a reminder that the candidates for the position of Dean of the Senior Class and Judicial Affairs are visiting campus today (Tuesday 4/16), this Thursday, and next Tuesday. There are campus-wide “community” meetings from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on all of those days, as well as students-only meetings from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Do consider coming and sharing any thoughts and concerns about the CJC or judicial affairs at Swarthmore, and finding out more about how the candidates plan to approach this part of their new prospective role!

  18. ” This is far less stringent than the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt standard required in a court of law.”

    Which is exactly where it will likely end,exposing both the school and the accuser to potential litigation.

    Colleges are legally permitted to apply a “clear presumption of innocence” to disciplinary proceedings, and civil-rights laws like Title IX do not override that right. Colleges are liable only for their own culpable failure to respond to harassment in a reasonable fashion, but such response does not require dispensing with students’ clear presumption of innocence.

    The acceptance of this standard by people who fashion themselves as progressive is alarming.

    The preponderance standard amounts to a 50-50 guess on credibility in what essentially would be a quasi-criminal proceeding that lacks constitutional protections.

    Preponderance is an appropriate standard for determining if a college has violated Title IX. But for an individual student, a higher standard should be required.

    • In a college, it is completely appropriate for the level of evidence to be preponderance. The difference between a college and legal proceeding, is the level of consequences for the sexual assailant.

      In legal proceedings, the standard is beyond a reasonable doubt, because of the severity of punishment. If you are found guilty of rape in court, you go to prison, and even when you get out you are labeled as a sex offender. There are lifetime consequences, and you will always legally and publicly counted as a rapist.

      In a college setting, the worst possible consequence is expulsion. You are not registered as a sex offender, you don’t go to jail – you just have to leave the college. Something will probably be on the permanent record of the student, but that likely just prevents you from re-enrolling into college. That doesn’t bar you from having an alternate future – and no one ever finds out what you did. This might sound harsh, but if you’re a rapist that is basically nothing, and 1000 times less than you deserve.

      If the person accused of sexual assault did not actually commit the assault, and actually receives a judgement of committing the assault, and actually gets expelled with a note on his (generally) record, then that is clearly clearly incredibly unfair to that person.

      However, we live in the real world. Cases (at Swarthmore and elsewhere) almost never reach the trial stage. Those that do, frequently do not come in favor of the victim. Even if the case is found for the victim, there are often loopholes that let the person get away without punishment – as in the case above. Further many accounts from survivors across the country have detailed the very minor consequences assailants have received – a semester off, a book report, apology, etc.

      All of this must be balanced with the reality a sexual assault victim has to face. Going to a college (especially a small one like Swarthmore) with your assailant, seeing them frequently, and very likely facing reprisal for speaking up is incredibly traumatizing, especially for someone who has been through a horrendous experience.

      The (alleged) assailant and victim DO NOT come into the trial on equal footing. Inherent to the process, the assailant has done something horrifying. Yes, they have legal rights, and those must be protected (the Dear Colleague Letter elucidates those rights), but the suffering the sexual assault survivor has suffered through, and continues to suffer through while their assailant is on campus, must be of the highest priority.

  19. So everybody gets all up in arms about the frats being homophobic and what not, but then non-Swarthmore students who dont identify as members of the queer community arent allowed to go to Sager? what the fuck is that? sounds like a double standard to me, but shit what would i know

    lets do another referendum on greek life but you can only vote if you’re a member of the queer community!!!

    • What the fuck are you even talking about? Straight people can go to Genderfuck. Probably most of the people AT Genderfuck are straight!

      • K,

        I think Genderfuck Question is referring to this, which was sent in an email to students:

        “For Bryn Mawr and Haverford Students:

        For Genderfuck 2013, the only students who may attend from Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College are those who self-identify as members of the queer community. We hope that all tri-co students will respect this policy with the understanding that Genderfuck is thrown each year to celebrate queer students and queer expressions of gender.”

        It CLEARLY says that non-Swarthmore tri-co students who aren’t queer aren’t welcome to attend. So what the fuck are YOU talking about?

      • Actually it was announced that the only people who may attend Genderfuck are Swarthmore students, and queer-identifying students of Bryn Mawr and Haverford. Bi-co students who do not identify as queer are not allowed to attend. Straight Swarthmore students, however, may.

        • Correct. What the questioner meant about a “double standard” is that non-queer students from Haverford and Bryn Mawr cannot attend, I’m pretty sure.

  20. Many, many thanks to P for her strength in speaking out and to Max for taking on an extremely important topic in such respectful, informative, and well-written prose.

    My sophomore year at Swat two of my friends were sexually assaulted by the same person, who they later found out had assaulted a third student. Although this was a few years before P’s assault, the aftermath brought to light similar issues. In particular, the friend who went to Dean Henry felt as though she was being pressured not to formally report the incident even though she’d already said she wanted to. In addition — and this is something I still wonder about — it was very difficult to know that the assailant was still on campus and that the vast majority of the student body was unaware of the potential threat he posed.

    I understand the logic behind protecting the identity of the accused, and I fully believe in “innocent until proven guilty.” However, when someone has been accused of sexual assault by three different people, which is more important: maintaining the accused’s anonymity, or making sure other students are aware of the potential danger that person poses? I haven’t come up with a good answer myself.

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