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Jul 12, 2013 09:55 AM EDT

Duke to Expel Students Guilty Of Sexual Assault Crimes

Over the past year, a network of student activists have begun pushing their colleges to better handle rape cases on campus.
(Photo : Reuters) Over the past year, a network of student activists have begun pushing their colleges to better handle rape cases on campus.

Duke University has decided to expel students found guilty of committing sexual assault beginning this fall. The previous recommended penalty imposed on students charged with sexual assault included a suspension from the university anywhere between three to six semesters.

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The revised penalty, applicable to only undergraduates, was approved by the campus Office of Student Conduct's Appellate Board.

 "We're really confident that this new change is a step in the right direction toward both preventing and addressing sexual assault on campus, as stricter sanctions are a critical aspect of gender-violence prevention," said Stefani Jones, president of Duke Student Government (DSG).

Larry Moneta, student affairs vice president, hopes that this revised university policy will prevent students from getting involved in any forms of sexual misconducts. He said that this renewed change is an attempt by the university to minimize incidents of sexual crimes on campus.

"In the past, the average sanction for similar offenses has been three to four semesters-including summer-which was really insufficient, considering the severity of the violation," Jones said. "What this does, though, is set the standard for the discussion so that expulsion is essentially the rule and suspension is the exception, rather than the other way around."

Majority of the campus community members criticized the university's decision to suspend a student found guilty of sexual assault because a rapist could easily return to campus, inciting more fear in the victim.

Moneta said that not every student found responsible for sexual assault will face expulsion. The changed guidelines will be used as the 'preferred sanction' in sexual assault cases, effective fall semester.

"As always, each case is unique and outcomes are specific to the facts and circumstances of that case," Moneta said.

Junior Nikolai Doytchinov, executive vice president of DSG, claim that expulsion is a suitable sanction for most sexual assault cases.

"I'm very happy with the change," Doytchinov said. "Sexual assault is one of the most serious crimes that take place on Duke's campus, and it deserves the maximum sanction that Duke can impose.

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