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At CPUC meeting, Princeton revises sexual violence definitions

Revisions to sexual violence and personal safety clauses under the University’s RRR policies were passed on a 12 to six vote on Monday during the last Council of Princeton University Community meeting of the academic year.

The revisions were drafted over the course of a year and originated from the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which required institutions to prohibit acts relating to dating violence, domestic violence and stalking, University Provost David Lee GS ’99 said in his presentation.

To ensure adequate prohibitions relating to these three issues, a sexual misconduct working group comprised of faculty and administrators has worked on developing comprehensive definitions of such acts.

There is a new definition for “Intimate Relationship” and “Intimate Relationship Violence,” which includes domestic violence and stalking. Additionally, subsections were added to “Personal Safety” stating that serious offenses include “violence directed at a person cohabiting in the same space as the perpetrator” and stalking.

Lee said the committee expects to introduce further revisions, as the legislation and policies regarding such acts are constantly evolving. He noted that the University regularly monitors amendments made by its peer institutions such as Yale University or Duke University.

One concern repeatedly voiced by undergraduate representatives about the document was the distinction between sexual infringements that involve violence, duress or incapacitation and sexual infringements that do not. Although violent sexual crime had been cited as “egregious” before the revisions were made, students said that this distinction made nonviolent acts appear less severe despite the emotional damage they could inflict.

“One of the things that the working group was attempting to signal was that all of this is serious, and the other is that we have to look at each case individually,” a member of the committee responded.

Another concern voiced by undergraduate representatives was the merging of intimate partner violence with general sexual misconduct. This merging, students argued, limits the particular egregiousness of sexual misconduct and may not be an appropriate label for all types of intimate partner violence.

“A lot of what the committee was thinking about was the way in which intimate partner violence and stalking resemble other forms of sexual misconduct in terms of what the victim experiences, the degree of trauma, the stigmatization,” a member of the committee explained, adding that the two phenomena are strongly linked through similar emotional dynamics.

University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 noted that the current revisions are meant to further clarify an already robust set of guidelines, but that continued discussion over possible improvements is encouraged.

Eisgruber also responded to questions about the University’s removal of a piece of the “Surface,” the visual art exhibit displayed close to Frist Campus Center, explaining that a maintenance member mistakenly interpreted an addition to the changeable art piece as defamation. The Lewis Center for the Arts agreed to remove the panel but reinstated it after further investigation, Eisgruber said.

Eisgruber recommended creating better channels of communication to confirm the identify of an art piece.

“Under the current state of artwork on campus, this sometimes can be more difficult than one might imagine,” Eisgruber said, noting that a different exhibit featuring empty Solo cups and pizza boxes was mistakenly removed.

The University’s endowment investment was also discussed during the meeting. According to professor of sociology and public affairs Paul Starr, the chair of the Resource Committee, the University’s annualized return over the last 15 years on its endowment investment was 11.2 percent, besting Warren Buffett’s returns over the same period.

However, Starr noted that such growth may not be indefinitely sustainable, and that the University will continue to use its resources wisely.

“The most important, socially responsible investment is the investment in knowledge and people that we do right here, on campus,” Starr said.

Paul Ominksy from the Department of Public Safety and Stephen Elwood from the Department of Environmental Health and Safety gave a presentation on communications to the campus community during emergencies and possible training initiatives.

Lee gave a brief update on the diversity report, and said that the focus this year was on learning, piloting and building resources to support broader efforts in diversity.

Clarification: An earlier version of this article misstated the nature of one of the revisions to the language used in Rights, Rules, Responsibilities. The University has revised the language for sexual assault deemed “especially egregious” and has removed “suspension” as a possibility, leaving only “expulsion” and “termination of employment” as options. However, this change does not mean that suspension will no longer be a possible punishment. Rather, the University seeks “to make it clear that students who commit these infractions are likely to receive very significant penalties.” The ‘Prince’ regrets the error.

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