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The president of Brandeis University says sexual misconduct at the university "poses a singular threat to our most deeply held values."
In a statement posted on Brandeis' website last week, Fred Lawrence acknowledged that "higher education has been slow to act on an issue that pervades our culture and our campuses."
Lawrence recounted some of the measures that Brandeis has taken in the past three years to address sexual assault on campus, including lowering the standard of proof a victim must meet in a disciplinary proceeding to "preponderance of evidence" — the same standard required in civil lawsuits.
This year, Brandeis has also adopted the same sanctions recently imposed at Dartmouth College for students found "responsible for non-consensual intercourse involving physical force, threat, or purposeful incapacitation." Those students would face "mandatory removal from campus."
Brandeis was informed earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights that it is the subject of an investigation under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender on college campuses, and that also requires colleges and universities to protect students from sexual violence.
"I see this as an opportunity to work with the [Office for Civil Rights] to identify ways to further improve our policies and practices," Lawrence said in his statement.
About 50 Brandeis students staged a protest last week during an event in front of the university's Rose Art Museum. Hundreds of attendees were waiting for the lighting of a sculpture in front of the museum when students filed out to one side of the ceremony, many with mouths taped, some carrying signs such as "There is no reason in sexual assault."
During the protest, Lawrence approached the students and told them he did not want them to feel that sexual assault is not a concern at Brandeis. He told them Brandeis has put a lot of effort into addressing the problem and promised to put more effort into it. Lawrence thanked the students for being there, and they remained for the entire ceremony.
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