I read with great interest the Oct. 8 article about Princeton’s new sexual-assault discipline policy. Although I am glad to see that my alma mater is doing serious thinking on the subject of how to address campus sexual assault, I fear that this policy review may have overlooked a fundamental question: Why does the University disciplinary committee, an organization designed for censuring undergraduate hijinks and campus pranks, have a role in what should be a matter for law enforcement? In terms of the seriousness of the crime, rape is roughly the equivalent of murder. Nobody is suggesting that university disciplinary committees should be meting out punishment to murderers, so why do we accept it as a matter of course that they are punishing rapists?
Additionally, keeping sexual-assault investigations at the campus level makes the justice system vulnerable to campus pressures; that is one reason why Jerry Sandusky got away with victimizing so many young men for so long, to name just one example. Rape is a vicious act of predation, not a youthful indiscretion. Allowing disciplinary committees to continue in their role as the first line of action against campus sexual assault equates rape to a campus prank in terms of severity, rather than elevating it to the seriousness that it serves.
I recommend that Princeton re-examine its sexual-assault policy again, and this time question the basic premise that the University has any role in sexual-assault discipline other than full cooperation with law enforcement.