Students at North Carolina A&T State University are in the throes of a growing campus protest following a rape allegation made by a student who says that administrators did not report the incident.
Students took a stand at a recent basketball game.
One group has made specific demands of administration to eliminate bad culture on campus when it comes to rape reporting, investigation and sanctioning.
We are tired.— The Aggie Collective (@CollectiveAggie) February 13, 2019
This letter, and other sentiments, were duct taped to the doors of Dowdy. We have demanded that the university responds by 12 noon Feb. 13th 2019. @WhoIsHLM #MentionMartin #AggieCollective #AGGIESDO pic.twitter.com/1rps06iWvO
The Aggies are more than entitled to protest rape and assault culture on campus, they are obligated to do so. While
But the obligation requires more of students than being loud. Students have to be knowledgeable about how public safety processes work, why they exist, and able to identify where there may be shortcomings on the part of infrastructure or leadership.
Drawing attention to the matter is just the first step. Now students have to be experts on federal laws guiding the ways campuses report and adjudicate claims of sexual assault. Students have to know that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) applies to an accused rapist as much as it does a rape survivor. If equal protections are not granted to both persons, then one or both parties may have a legal claim against the institution.
Students have to know that the U.S. Department of Education is working to change its interpretation of how campuses should adjudicate sexual assault, with standards moving from “more likely than not” that an assault has occurred to “clear and convincing evidence” of the same. This means that details of an assault matter more than they ever have, campuses are more deliberate in investigating than they’ve ever been, and that they have to be more certain of suspending and expelling students like they’ve never been before in order to avoid due process violations.
These are issues that North Carolina A&T officials, like those at many other institutions, are working to digest and to provide to their Title IX, counseling, police and diversity personnel in a short period of time, all while handling new allegations.
To be clear, NCAT officials can walk and chew gum at the same time and so learning new guidance and appropriately protecting students who have been assaulted should not be a difficult task. But it is a task that makes prosecuting an accused student just as difficult as it is easy to believe a student accuser.
Rape, assault, and harassment are wrong in every form and on every campus across the country. Those who commit the acts should be punished within every allowable aspect of the law. A&T students should be applauded for joining similar movements at Spelman College, Howard University and other HBCUs for making the issue a front and center topic of activism for their peers and a topic of awareness for the greater community.
But it is not enough to make demands of administration without understanding the constraints and requirements within which its members have to work. Understanding the federal rules and campus bylaws on public safety issues is the only way to effectively demand change from an administration.
Tweeting NCAT Chancellor Harold Martin is not an effective substitute for student expertise on how to create a safer campus community.