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Duke Revises Sanctioning Guidelines for Sexual Assault

Duke has revised its guidelines for sanctioning undergraduates who are found responsible for sexual assault through the university's disciplinary process.

Starting in the fall, expulsion -- permanent separation from Duke -- will be the first option considered by a panel of the Undergraduate Conduct Board that finds a student responsible for sexual assault. The change was recommended this past spring by students on a student conduct advisory board.

"That doesn't mean that every case where a student is found responsible for sexual assault will necessarily result in expulsion, but rather that there will be a determination made by the hearing panel as to whether any factors should influence a change from that expectation," said Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta. "As always, each case is unique and outcomes are specific to the facts and circumstances of that case."

In the past, the average sanction for an undergraduate found responsible for sexual assault was suspension from Duke for multiple semesters, Moneta said.

"In general, I support this change as it makes clear how much of an offense sexual assault is to the community as well as to a victim," Moneta said.

Moneta said the change is "but one among many recent efforts to reduce incidents of sexual assault," including bystander intervention training and anti-hazing initiatives.

"We've been working on this for several years, and this is part of a continuing effort to reduce sexual  assault," Moneta said. "Our actions are meant to prevent and deter."

The guidelines exist to foster consistency in sanctions issued from year to year, even as the members of the conduct board change. Cases referred to the conduct board are separate and distinct from offenses reported to the police, and students have access to both processes.

Moneta noted that other universities have been wrestling with the same issue.

"I think we have been among the leaders in the national movement to address the issue of gender violence and sexual assault," he said. "This is just another element in our campaign to interrupt those behaviors."