This editorial discusses sexual assault on campus. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off-campus resources.

Survivors of sexual assault deserve every chance to earn justice and have their stories heard. Georgetown University’s Title IX office and Office of Student Conduct, however, fail survivors at every turn.

The university’s sexual harassment and assault adjudication process, as organized by the Office of Student Conduct, places a series of undue burdens on survivors. The process’s guidelines — and execution of those guidelines — must be amended and revised in consultation with a working group made up of past panel members, survivors and those accused.

A review of Georgetown’s internal policies is especially needed now, as U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos prepares to overhaul national standards to further skew the hearing process against survivors by granting new rights to the accused.

Georgetown has a responsibility to pursue justice in a manner that treats all parties fairly. A working group would need to address the unjust process endured by survivors as they go through their hearings.

An anonymous op-ed published last week in The Hoya accused Georgetown of discouraging survivors from following through on their cases through biased policies and a failure to enforce rules equally.

A letter to the editor followed this week, written by Emlyn Crenshaw (COL ’15), a survivor who won her case while at Georgetown. Crenshaw described the university’s “apparent indifference toward the well-being of survivors in its community.”

The existing process for survivors is often retraumatizing. No replacement process will ever fully address this problem: Sexual harassment and assault can never be undone, and their effects on survivors cannot be reversed. However, Georgetown has enacted several guidelines that are unnecessarily detrimental; a working group could push the university to establish a process that makes survivors more comfortable.

No-contact orders epitomize such flaws in the current system. Any student can obtain an NCO through the Office of Student Conduct at any time, whether or not either student is involved in a Title IX hearing. These orders, however, are inconsistently and inadequately enforced by OSC, leading to undue burden placed on the survivor.

The aforementioned op-ed recounts a situation in which “Annie,” another survivor whose name was changed for the article, was driven to move out of her freshman dorm because of Georgetown’s inability or unwillingness to enforce its own policies.

Annie lived on the same floor as her assailant and was told by Assistant Director for Student Conduct Heather Kimball that a no-contact order between survivor and assailant would lead to each individual living in a separate building. After Annie filed the NCO based on this information, the university failed to observe the promised policy: Her assailant was not relocated. She was left no choice but to move to a new building.

The proper enforcement of no-contact orders is essential to survivors’ well-being as they navigate a campus on which they may not feel safe. Georgetown’s failure to establish this safety is unacceptable and hazardous to its own students.

Georgetown also treads on survivors’ rights through miscommunication and delay in ensuring their institutional protection.

The Title IX office, for example, failed to tell multiple survivors with ongoing cases about the resignation of former Title IX Coordinator Laura Cutway in June. Cutway’s responsibilities were absorbed by Title IX Investigator Samantha Berner, who is currently serving in both roles. The combination of these two positions poses an inherent conflict of interest: If a survivor were to appeal their case, Berner — as coordinator — would be revisiting a hearing she oversaw as investigator.

The university has also failed to fill the full-time position for five months. This delay is unacceptable in such a crucial role on campus and demonstrates a skewed prioritization of survivors’ needs.

Georgetown has failed survivors repeatedly. The concerns this editorial board has expressed represent only a sample of the many ways in which the university hinders justice for some of its most vulnerable community members.

While the Title IX hearing process is deeply flawed, it can be improved with the right input and a commitment by Georgetown to follow through on any and all recommendations made by a working group of those who have endured the process.

The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the Opinion Editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.

Resources: On-campus confidential resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Services (202-687-7080); additional off-campus resources include the D.C. Rape Crisis Center (202-333-7273) and the D.C. Forensic Nurse Examiner Washington Hospital Center (844-443-5732). If you or anyone you know would like to receive a sexual assault forensic examination or other medical care — including emergency contraception — call the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. at 202-742-1727.  To report sexual misconduct, you can contact Georgetown’s interim Title IX coordinator at 202-687-9183 or file an online report here. Emergency contraception is available at the CVS located at 1403 Wisconsin Ave NW and through H*yas for Choice. For more information, visit sexualassault.georgetown.edu.

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