American University Alumni Community Demands Judicious Handling of Sexual Assault Cases

  • by: Bianca Palmisano
  • recipient: American University Title IX Coordinator, Dean of Students, and Office of Student Conduct

When Faith Ferber reported being sexually assaulted by another student at American University last spring, the school delayed her hearing, ignored her recommendations for sanctions against her assailant, and failed to enforce restrictions on her assailant's participation in greek life. She is not the first AU student to have her case mishandled by the sexual assault review board, but we want her to be the last.

The AU alumni community was saddened and angered to read about the mishandling of Faith Ferber’s sexual assault case. The AU community values consent, transparency, and due process and had hoped that the university would uphold these values in its processing of cases of sexual assault and rape. Unfortunately, we find that the current governing body does not protect survivors on AU’s campus, nor does it hold accountable known offenders.


Please sign this petition to join the AU alumni community in demanding that the following revisions be made to the school's policy regarding how to handle sexual assault cases:

*** If you are part of the AU community, please identify yourself in the comments section. *** 

1. AU administration must adhere strictly to the 60 day time limit for resolution as published in the Discrimination and Sexual Harassment policy. This timeline should only be extended by the investigative party, in the event that the case becomes too complex to process within the timeline. It should NOT be extended to accommodate the campus schedule, such as finals or term breaks. This ensures impartiality and adequate due process for the survivor, who continues to share campus space with their assailant.


2. The administration should set and make public sanctioning guidelines that apply to all sexual assault cases. These guidelines will name specific student life activities, particularly those with leadership responsibilities or endowed with public trust, which are de facto prohibited for assailants found responsible for sexual assault or any charges. Prohibited activities would include becoming an RA, holding a student government post, and participating in fraternity life or athletics. These restrictions would be enacted automatically unless the survivor requests that they be waived.


3. The investigative body will utilize these published guidelines to recommend sanctions for any assailants found responsible, in coordination with input from the survivor.


4. All members of the hearing board at American University shall undertake at least 2 hours of training on sexual assault response techniques, ensuring that they have the personal capacity to judge the ramifications of a ruling in the cases they hear.


5. From this point forward, no party in a sexual assault case will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement with the university, as they are not legally enforceable and represent a form of entrapment.


6. All evidence from sexual assault cases will be maintained appropriately and confidentially until the statute of limitations expires for a civil or criminal trial.


7. The university shall make public all rulings where an assailant is found responsible for sexual assault, with the survivors permission.


8. The university shall publish annually a listing of the number of sexual assault cases dismissed before hearing and the number of defendants found not responsible.Independent data shows that less than 8% of rape and sexual assault accusations are false. These publicly available statistics will ensure accountability in the event that the board does not uphold its duty to hear cases and rule judiciously.

Please sign this petition to join the AU alumni community in holding American University to these high standards for protecting sexual assault survivors and holding assailants accountable. Future funding for the university from its alumni donor base will be intrinsically tied to the university’s ability to enact these new standards and serve sexual assault survivors with the respect they are due.

*** If you are part of the AU community, please identify yourself in the comments section. ***

Dear AU administrators and staff,

The American University alumni community was saddened and angered to read about the mishandling of Ms. Faith Ferber’s sexual assault case this past fall. The AU community values consent, transparency, and due process and had hoped that the university would uphold these values in its processing of cases of sexual assault and rape. Unfortunately, we find that the current governing body does not protect survivors on AU’s campus, nor does hold accountable known offenders.



In light of gross missteps, the American University alumni community demands the following revisions be made to the handling of sexual assault cases to ensure transparency and a higher ethical standard for all survivors who come forward in the future.



1. AU administration must adhere strictly to the 60 day time limit for resolution as published in the Discrimination and Sexual Harassment policy. This timeline should only be extended by the investigative party, in the event that the case becomes too complex to process within the timeline. It should NOT be extended to accommodate the campus schedule, such as finals or term breaks. This ensures impartiality and adequate due process for the survivor, who continues to share campus space with their assailant.



2. The administration should set and make public sanctioning guidelines that apply to all sexual assault cases. These guidelines will name specific student life activities, particularly those with leadership responsibilities or endowed with public trust, which are de facto prohibited for assailants found responsible for sexual assault or any charges. Prohibited activities would include becoming an RA, holding a student government post, and participating in fraternity life or athletics. These restrictions would be enacted automatically unless the survivor requests that they be waived.



3. The investigative body will utilize these published guidelines to recommend sanctions for any assailants found responsible, in coordination with input from the survivor.



4. All members of the hearing board at American University shall undertake at least 2 hours of training on sexual assault response techniques, ensuring that they have the personal capacity to judge the ramifications of a ruling in the cases they hear.



5. From this point forward, no party in a sexual assault case will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement with the university, as they are not legally enforceable and represent a form of entrapment.



6. All evidence from sexual assault cases will be maintained appropriately and confidentially until the statute of limitations expires for a civil or criminal trial.



7. The university shall make public all rulings where an assailant is found responsible for sexual assault, with the survivors permission.



8. The university shall publish annually a listing of the number of sexual assault cases dismissed before hearing and the number of defendants found not responsible. Independent data shows that less than 8% of rape and sexual assault accusations are false. These publicly available statistics will ensure accountability in the event that the board does not uphold its duty to hear cases and rule judiciously.

The AU alumni community will hold American University to these high standards. Future funding for the university from its alumni donor base is intrinsically tied to the university’s ability to enact these new standards and serve sexual assault survivors with the respect they are due.

Respectfully,

The AU Alumni Community

Update #23 years ago
We delivered all 80,000+ of your signatures to AU's administration on April 18th. As a result of your advocacy, a number of changes to AU's sexual assault policies are being implemented. Among those changes are a new confidentiality policy that makes it clear survivors have the right to tell their story. Students on disciplinary probation will also be explicitly barred from holding student government, RA, orientation leader, and fraternity leadership positions. Thank you!
Update #13 years ago
We are so thankful to the almost 65,000 signers who has expressed their support for Faith and for the need for dramatic change at American University! Please continue to spread the word to friends, alumni, and other concerned citizens.

Plans are in development for the delivery of the petition and ways to ensure that American University is held accountable for how these cases are handled. Stay tuned for more details.
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