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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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Friday, November 14, 2014 - 5A

(pinion Ar Friday, November14, 2014-

The pendulum

i th an epidemic of
sexual assault sweep-
ing college cam-
puses across the
nation, including
the University of
Michigan, there
are count-
less topics of
uncertainty and
controversy. In a
four-part series,
James Brennan
seeks to explore JAMES
them with inter- BRENNAN
views and per-
sonal research.
This is part three.
Trigger warning: The following
article includes descriptions
of sexual assault and may be
For students who have
attended the University in the
past few years, the issue of
sexual assault will forever be
synonymous with the name of a
former football player.
The University's handling
of rape allegations against
former kicker Brendan Gibbons
became a national news story
last year, and for good reason.
After The Michigan Daily broke
the story, online editor Austen
Hufford wrote a thorough piece
detailing the University's new
Student Sexual Misconduct
Policy, accompanied by a helpful
timeline of events. Here's a short
version of (my interpretation of)
what transpired:
In 2009, the University had
a terrible sexual assault poli-
cy, which allowed Gibbons to
be accused of assault without
investigation. Two years later,
the Department of Education

issued a letter argu
handling of sexual
sations was a viola
IX. Not wanting tc
of university thatc
on the basis of sex
sity instituted inte
sexual assault whil
process of building
After two years of:
University finalizes
Sexual Misconduc
have today. Shortl
the University expe
Gibbons on Dec. 20
The total tir
Gibbons' alleged as
expulsion was mo
This was a
administration on
scale, one the scl
attempted to obfu
not been for leake
obtained by
The Michigan
Daily, it's
possible we
would never
know the
extent of the
murky inner
something we do
Gibbons case was
dozens, maybe h
sexual assault acc
the University dea
its former, irreverer
As of August 201
and universities
federal investigati
handling of sexual
Columbia Univers
the school mostr

ing that poor its failures, in large part due
assault accu- to student and survivor Emma
ation of Title Sulkowicz. Sulkowicz was
o be the kind violently raped her sophomore
discriminates year, but the university severely
, the Univer- mishandled and then dismissed
rim rules for the case. In a combination of
e it began the performance art and protest,
a new policy. Sulkowicz has been carrying her
tinkering, the mattress around Columbia all
d the Student year, representing the weight she
t Policy we carries while her rapist remains
ly thereafter, on campus. Her work has gained
elled Brendan national attention, manifesting
, 2013. itself through nationwide
ae between demonstrations called "Carry
sault and his That Weight Day of Action".
re than four While Sulkowicz and Gibbons'
names will forever be connected
failure of to universities mishandling
a massive sexual assault, one other name
hool actively may end up having an equal
scate. Had it influence: Drew Sterrett.
d documents Sterrett was suspended in
April of 2014
The vast majority allegations
of sexual
of sexual assault misconduct.
accusations are In May,
genuine - but filed suit
against the
some aren't. University,
violations of
know: the his rights to due process in the
only one of school's investigation. Since the
undreds, of Department of Education issued
usations that the letter encouraging colleges
it with under to adopt new policies, more than
nt policies. 20 lawsuits of this type have
4, 76 colleges been filed against universities.
are under Criticism of how schools
on for their investigate and punish accused
assault cases. assaulters is not reserved to
ity may be those facing the consequences.
notorious for In October, 28 Harvard Law

School professors signed on to
an op-ed in the Boston Globe
objecting to the school's sexual
assault policies, which carry
many similarities to The Uni-
versity's policies. The statement,
signed by liberal scholars like
Charles Ogletree and Alan Der-
showitz, argues that Harvard's
procedures "lack the most basic
elements of fairness and due pro-
cess" and "are overwhelmingly
stacked against the accused."
In interviews with dozens of
students, concerns about due
process were barely an after-
thought. Most students I asked
were unaware of Sterrett's law-
suit, and upon hearing my basic
rundown of the case, gave mixed
reactions. As we worked our way
through the issues around the
University's policy, moststudents
developed a reluctant desire to
see better respect for due pro-
cess. However, some remained
largely skeptical of accused rap-
ists being mistreated.
LSA senior and former SAPAC
volunteer coordinator Kathryn
Abercrombie asserted that the
University affords the accused
appropriate due process while
maintaining their support for
survivors. Abercrombie also
defended the school's burden
of proof, which only requires a
"preponderance of evidence" -
this is the lowestburden of proof
in American civil law.
Abercrombie argued that the
University's policies show how
it tries to stand by survivors,
which she feels is most
important (also acknowledging
that not all who've reported
feel this commitment from the
school). Moreover, Abercrombie
acknowledged the possibility of
Sterrett's case being mishandled
at an individual level, while also
pointing out that filing a lawsuit
does not mean he is innocent.
Anne Huhman, SAPAC's
program manager for
prevention and education,
defended the University's use
of preponderance of evidence,
saying the school's sexual assault
policy "follows the guidelines
established .,by the U.Se
Department of Education and its
Office of Civil Rights." According
to Huhman, the Student Sexual
Misconduct Policy "strives to
place the rights of both parties at
the core of the process."
Before I go on further, I'll
pause to acknowledge the
privileged position I come from;
as a male, and as a 6-foot-2,
220-pound male, the possibility
of being sexually assaulted
has virtually never entered my
head. I've never been sexually
assaulted, and my ability to
truly understand the trauma a
survivor feels or the fear women

have of being raped is minimal.
With that being said, I also
come from the privileged
position of having never been
accused of a crime I did not
commit. Nor was I ever found
guilty without strong evidence
and harshly punished in a way
that will follow me for the rest of
my life. Like any rational student,
I want my school to stand up for
students that have been sexually
assaulted and take swift action
against guilty parties. But, like
any rational student, I accept
that the term "guilty" cannot be
taken lightly.
The vast majority of sexual
assault accusations are genuine
and accurate - but some aren't.
The number of false accusations,
whether fabrications orfrommis-
taken identity, is not known. A
widely cited statistic claims only
2 percent of reported rape accu-
sations are false, but this number
is largely without scholarly basis.
Given the underreporting of rape
and other difficulties in creating
estimates, it's possible that false
accusations are that low - or
lower. No study has found a con-
clusive, accepted number.
Whatever this number is, we
know one thing: it isn't zero.
People have always been
falsely accused of crimes, and
sexual assault is no exception.
The University and other schools
have clearly failed in their duty
to protect students from rape
and sexual assault, but they
cannot answer by flippantly
branding students as rapists.
The University must continue to
aggressivelyinvestigate claims of
sexual violence while respecting
in full the due process rights of

and serves the valuable purpose
of relieving at least some trauma
for survivors. Similar, less
permanent measures should
accompany reforms to improve
due process. One suggestion is
immediate reviews for 60-day
restraining orders after all
sexual assault allegations. This
would put needed space between
survivors and the accused, while
also maintaining a commitment
to fairly evaluate the situation
before more drastic action.
It's likely that instituting
greater due process and stan-
dards of evidence will result in
guilty offenders getting away.
That is a reality we have to
accept, and one we accept with
our current policies. It's a real-
ity we have accepted in our jus-
tice system forever, and one we
will always have to accept. Sir
William Blackstone, the intellec-
tual godfather of American law,
wrote in 1765 that "better that
ten guilty persons escape than
that one innocent party suffer."
We demand this standard for the
accused in all crimes, and sexual
assault is no different.
I am incredibly torn on this
problem. While I'm deeply
committed to respecting the
rights of accused persons, I was
shocked by the sheer number
of women I met during the past
month who have been assaulted,
most of whom never saw justice
served. This is an outrage.
The night of the "Carry That
Weight" protests, I walked back
through the then nearly empty
Diag. A list of demands remained
papered over the 'M', but
something else stuck out to me.
Because of the mass of students

the accused. walking
Women through the
"crying rape" Diag earlier,
is not a regu- To any so-called men's I hadn't
lar occur- noticed the
rence, and to rights activists who spray painted
any so-called messages
men's rights think I'm on your surrounding
activists who side I'm not. the M. In
think I'm on ' yellow,
your side, I'm all capital
not. I con- letters,:one
aider myself r.sdemanded
a feminist and I cannot imagine "EXPEL RAPISTS." Another
what would possess a person to read "ADMINS DEFEND
make up rape accusations, espe- RAPISTS." I felt a deep conflict,
cially after seeing the hell that remembering the way my blood
female survivors in particular go boiled readingthe horrific details
through seeking justice. As the of Emma Sulkowicz's rape and
son of an attorney, and a strong dismissal. I also shuddered at the
advocate for criminal justice thought of an innocent person
reform, I also, however, under- being labeled a sex offender,
stand the hell that comes from consequences that last a lifetime.
criminal convictions. Between classes earlier that
Preventative measures - day, I stood somberly reading
primarily education and campus the demands, trying to listen in
activism - will play a much on other students' conversations
stronger role in limiting sexual about the protest.
assault on campus than threats "I mean, this is what we've all
of punishment. But rape will been waiting for, right?"
deserve justice. Expulsion is a James Brennan can be reached
punishment worthy of its crime, at mbthree@umich.edu.

"Look at this amazing article they wrote about me."
A Deptford Goth

For TheDaily
Taking music recommen-
dations from friends can be
a risky business - especially
when that friend has wronged
you in the past. Previous rec-
ommendations from said
companion include nonde-
script singer-songwriters and
aggressively bubbly British pop
music. So when she suggest-
ed that I check out Deptford
Goth's debut Life After Defo, I
was skeptical. Would I again
be stuck listening to an album
entirely opposite my musical
agenda, only to later face the
awkward question of how I
liked it? My friend's descrip-
tion of simply "chill electro
music" did not do much to
pique my interest. Eventually
my curiosity got the best of me
and I let the album play, only
haphazardly listening.
The first time through, I
quickly dismissed it as some-
thing to be played solely in the
background - an ambient lis-
tening perfect only for filling
empty space. I didn't find any-
thing wrong with it, but I also
didn't find anything special.
This sentiment was reinforced
by the slurred vocals, mumbled
to the point of melting into the
instrumentals. The overall lack
of pungent downbeats or crisp
notes gave me the impres-
sion of a simplicity that didn't
require a closer listen.

It was only on the second
and third listens, when I actu-
ally began to pay attention, that
I realized how very wrong I had
been. The flow of each song,
and of the album as a whole,
started to become clear to me
- and it was awesome. Dept-
ford's vocal delivery no longer
came off as half-hearted, but as
honest and soulful. The sparse
instrumentals suddenly made
sense with the lyrics. Oh, how
naive I'd been. The seemingly
simple album transformed into
something entirely new and
dynamic, and I could not stop
While the background
instrumentals initially seemed
to be comprised solely of syn-
thesizers and intermittent per-
cussion, a closer listen revealed
a much higher level of com-
plexity. Using harps, organs
and various forms of percus-
sion in combination with the
synth base, the overall tone of
the album is one of contempla-
tion and uncertainty. The rise
and fall of each song backs up
these feelings, especially when
the lyrical content of love and
death is taken into consider-
Goth's vocal style could be
likened to a sleepy Sam Smith
- a touch of R&B without try-
ing too hard. His intentional
mumbling is, at times, frustrat-
ing but also very impactful.
I found that it allowed him
to highlight the most impor-

tant lyrics of each song, even
if these lyrics were unclear in f
and of themselves. Lines such
as "Something's coming and
I can't see what it is..." are
common throughout, leaving
listeners such as myself to con-
template their meanings and -
implications. The album seems
to peak with "Objects Objects,"
a track strengthened by heavy
bass tones and standout lyr-
ics such as "As if you're telling
me there is no such thing as
heartache / As if you're tell-
ing me we'll come alive." Its
sound is both sad and hopeful
- themes that run through the
entire record, both lyrically
and musically.
There is something raw
and real about this album that
is relatable on the most basic
human level. Its ambient qual-
ity conveys emotion, even
without being able to decipher
the majority of the essentially
inaudible vocals. Aside from
these more serious aspects, the
record is also just a really cool
example of electro-pop.
As I now think so fondly of
this album, I regret my initial
skepticism. Some of the most
interesting art isn't necessarily
easy to dissect or understand
on the surface level. I have
learned my lesson and will try
to keep this in mind next time
a friend suggests new music,
even if the extent of their rec-
ommendation is as simple as
"chill electro music."

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