July 18, 2019 | 85° F

RUSA condemns Rutgers' sexual assault investigation policies

Photo by The Daily Targum |

 This meeting was the last to be presided over by current President Suzanne Link, a School of Arts and Sciences senior (right) and was also the last meeting where Nicholas Tharney (left), a School of Arts and Sciences junior, would serve as parliamentarian. 

The Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) passed a bill condemning the University’s response to sexual misconduct cases.The legislation, which was passed by unanimous consent at a meeting on Thursday night, calls upon Rutgers to make changes to the way it investigates allegations of sexual assault.

It follows months of anger by some over the University’s response to allegations of sexual misconduct made against faculty and staff, most notably surrounding Professor Nabil Adam.

Adam, who is accused by one of his former graduate students of sexual assault and harassment, was found not guilty of sexual assault by the Office of Employment Equity (OEE) in two separate investigations. He was found guilty of violating Rutgers policy by not reporting the accusations made against him in various emails by the student to the University himself.

The Daily Targum reported in February that Adam was still under investigation for allegedly retaliating against his accusers. He currently works in an office at the Rutgers Business School in New Brunswick and does not teach. 

The RUSA bill stated that “based on recent cases, such as the cases involving professors Nabil Adam and Stephen Bronner, students have expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency and efficiency on faculty and staff sexual misconduct cases investigated by OEE.”

The OEE is currently the sole investigator into sexual misconduct cases involving faculty, staff and graduate students.

The bill “condemns the conflict of interest involving the OEE serving as the sole investigator on cases involving faculty, staff and graduate students.”

It also calls for a minimum of five undergraduate students and five graduate students to serve on the Sexual Harassment Prevention Committee established by University President Robert L. Barchi.

The committee, created in October 2018, currently does not share information regarding what they have been tasked with, or what they have achieved.

The bill “urges that the Sexual Harassment Prevention Committee publish their membership, objectives, and findings by the start of the Fall 2019 semester.”

It also publicly states RUSA’s support for the "End Assault at Rutgers" coalition, which aims to advocate for Rutgers survivors of sexual violence.

“We believe that there has been a gross overlook in how survivors, especially graduate students, have been handled,” said Chanel Jordan, a School of Arts and Sciences and the Sexual Violence Education Department chair.

She said that the Adam case was the “impetus” for the writing of the bill, but that it is intended to apply to cases of sexual misconduct at Rutgers.

Other legislation passed at the meeting included a bill to approve the 2019-2020 Allocations Board. The board, made up of students, is responsible for allocating money to student clubs and organizations. The new members were voted in with a majority of 37 votes.

The Undergraduate-Alumni Relations Committee also presented its recommendations, which included making improvements to PeopleGrove, the current Rutgers alumni directory. Its recommendations were passed by unanimous consent.

RUSA also voted in favour of resolutions to support the recommendations of the ad hoc committee on sustainable governance, which worked to find solutions for how Rutgers’ various student governing bodies can work more effectively, and to explore alternative structures for student governance at the University.  

The meeting was also the last to be presided over by current President Suzanne Link, who will end her term next week when the newly elected Jhanvi Virani will take over the role of president for 2019-2020.

Nicole Wootton-Cane

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