At Miami University, controversy continues to swirl around a flier titled “How To Get Away With Rape” that was discovered in a men’s bathroom.
The distasteful list (link) includes suggestions like using date rape drugs, preying on women who are walking alone, climbing into windows and slitting the victim’s throat if the rapist is identified. The outrage resulting from this poster is well deserved.
Miami University has called a mandatory meeting of male students at dorm where the flyer was found. The University is also launching an investigation.
The challenge for the University is that, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, at least 27 sexual assaults have been reported from 2009 through 2011. Some students have also noted that a sexual assault prevention coordinator position has been vacant for a year. Perhaps the problem on campus is deeper than simply a poster?
Our view, based on conversations with college administrators and trustees, is that schools often face investigatory and criminal law problems that internal staff and procedures are not equipped to handle. In this case, Miami University may be best served by bringing in outside attorneys or professionals with experience in law enforcement to examine the culture that may have contributed to the posting of this flyer.
Read More: Problems with Wells Investigation at Xavier – Is this another Penn State?
Miami, like other institutions, must recognize that when an institution faces potentially serious allegations, the use of internal staff, whether in the university’s police force or otherwise, to undertake an investigation creates two problems: first, the use of internal staff may create the appearance of a conflict of interest because the staff is not independent from the institution; second, internal staff may not have the resources or experience necessary to conduct a thorough investigation of serious allegations, especially where possible law enforcement issues are involved.
The Penn State situation, while in many ways unique, illustrates the need for schools to be increasingly aware that investigations conducted by objectively credible people may be subject to conflict of interest criticism. While such criticism is often unfair — institutions are unlikely to risk excellent reputations for any single student, faculty member, or staff member – it remains an avoidable fact.
In the case of a situation like that face by the University of Miami, the school should bring in a team of law enforcement investigators with experience in these issues to assist in avoiding problems and, if necessary, crafting a strategic response to allegations. By using these external investigators, institutions can avoid the inevitable criticism that it should not be “investigating itself” or “policing itself.”