Yet again, the Neal Davis Law Firm team has been busy reviewing the dozens of amazing essays we recently received from students nationwide who entered to win our $1,000 scholarship contest. This was our fourth essay contest and we were thrilled to receive over 60 submissions.
In this essay question, we asked students for their perspective on a controversial and highly publicized social movement sweeping the nation:
How has the #MeToo movement changed how schools deal with and talk about sexual assault on campus, and what approach in your view would best balance a victim’s right to justice with an accused’s right to due process and fairness?
Our winner, Shiza Arshad, is a first-year law student at Georgetown University Law Center. She is currently studying to get her Juris Doctor (JD) degree and lives in Louisville, Kentucky. What we loved about her essay was how professional, well-researched and compelling her argument is.
Congrats Shiza on winning the $1,000 scholarship, and a big thanks to everyone who participated!
Without further ado, here’s her essay:
The epidemic of sexual violence in the United States has spurred a discussion that is essential to the soul of our culture. #MeToo has enabled many to speak out about their experiences with sexual violence and it has led to a watershed moment in our society. University students are, in many ways, at the center of this movement.
Discussions About Sexual Assault and Harassment On-Campus and Beyond
In response, institutions of higher education are offering more trainings to not only learn about sexual harassment and threats, but also encouraging bystanders to speak up when they see it happen in real time.
One such program is the Green Dot campaign[i]. The Green Dot campaign, which was created at the University of Kentucky, takes a different approach to the age-old wisdom of “if you see something, say something”. The campaign encourages bystanders to use the 3 D’s — direct, delegate or distract — as tools when combating an instance of violence. Bystanders can directly interfere and attempt to stop the violence. If they are not comfortable with this, they can delegate the task to someone of authority, such as campus security. Bystanders also have the option to distract the perpetrator of violence, and the campaign suggests some creative ways of accomplishing this[ii].
The Green Dot campaign is currently increasing outreach to high schools so the conversation around sexual violence and harassment can start at an earlier age[iii]. They train college students, teachers, and local advocates in their program so they can go out into the community and instigate these conversations with high school students. This would allow incoming students to already have the knowledge and tools to combat sexual violence, encouraging a safer collegiate environment.
Handling Accusations: Balancing the Victim’s Right to Justice with the Accused’s Right to Due Process
To further ensure the safety of all students involved, college administrations need to take certain steps when a student reports an instance of sexual assault. Universities must institute a fair and just process.
The first step in these cases is to establish a timeline for the investigation that is followed strictly. Presently, too many claims are not even investigated[iv].
The second step is to institute a no contact order between the parties until an investigation can be conducted and a hearing can be held. Throughout these proceedings, students should be assigned representatives which, ideally, will be in the form of legal counsel. These representatives will have the opportunity to cross examine witnesses, including the victim and the accused.
Lastly, if the accused is found to be responsible, it should be up to the university board to administer the proper punishment, with input from a Title IX coordinator. Local authorities should also be contacted in concurrence with an internal university hearing.
Lack of a Fair Process
If universities fail to institute a fair process and students are not afforded a proper hearing, there can be grave consequences for all parties involved[v]. Accused individuals could potentially have their rights violated, spurring lengthy and expensive lawsuits against the university[vi]. Victims can be forced to relive their experiences over and over again through years of legal proceedings, unable to move on with their lives.
The current gaps in how college administrations and investigative forces handle sexual violence are glaring. The subsequent consequences of these gaps can be lethal for students. Perhaps the best example of this is the story of Lauren McCluskey, a student and athlete at the University of Utah who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend while walking from class to her dorm[vii]. She had previously reached out to report sexual harassment and threats to the relevant authorities. Still, nothing was done, and a promising life was lost.
We have a long, winding road ahead in the quest to make our college campuses, and ultimately our society, safe from sexual violence. Speaking out about our experiences and discussing the issue is the first step. The next is to ensure college administrations have a system in place that seeks to find out the truth, whatever it may be.
[i] “Prevention Strategies.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 26, 2019, from www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/prevention.html.
[ii] “Green Dot for College.” (2017. September 6). Alteristic. Retrieved March 26, 2019, from www.alteristic.org/services/green-dot/green-dot-colleges/.
[iii] Thomas, Megan. “New Study Released Highlights Green Dot in High Schools.” (2018). National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Retrieved March 26, 2019, from http://www.nsvrc.org/blog/s/preventionista/new-study-released-highlights-green-dot-high-schools.
[iv] Long, Colleen. “Many NYC Sex Assault Cases Are Not Investigated.” (2018). Associated Press, 27 Mar. 2018.
[v] Gerstmann, Evan. “Why Students Accused of Sexual Assault Deserve a Hearing Before Being Punished.” (2019). Forbes, Retrieved March 26, 2019, from www.forbes.com/sites/evangerstmann/2019/01/11/why-students-accused-of-sexual-assault-deserve-a-hearing-before-being-punished/#1af8442d5e93.
[vi] “Experts See Flaws in How Colleges Handle Sexual Assault Allegations.” American Bar Association, 13AD, Retrieved March 26, 2019, from www.americanbar.org/news/abanews/aba-news-archives/2017/08/experts_see_flawsin/.
[vii] Moshtaghian, Artemis, et al. “College Track Star Once Dated Her Killer and Had Reported Him to Police, Authorities Say.” (2018) CNN, Retrieved March 26, 2019, from www.cnn.com/2018/10/24/us/lauren-mccluskey-university-of-utah-fatal-shooting/index.html.
About the Author
Shiza Arshad graduated from the University of Kentucky with degrees in International Studies and Chinese Language and Literature. During her undergraduate studies, Shiza was actively involved in her community as a peer instructor and mentor. She also obtained several scholarships and grants to research and study abroad in China and Europe. Since graduating, she has worked in family and housing law. She hopes to continue her work in the public interest realm as an attorney after graduating from the Georgetown University Law Center.
Think you have what it takes to be our next scholarship winner?
Visit us again soon to participate in our next scholarship essay contest. Interested applicants may find more information on our scholarship contest page.
And in case you missed them, don’t forget to check out our previous winning entries to see what we’re looking for and to read their insightful essays:
- Essay contest 1: Are law enforcement body cameras an invasion of privacy?
- Essay contest 2: Do mandatory minimum sentences make the U.S. safer or more dangerous?
- Essay contest 3: Is more oversight of the FISA court needed?
If you have additional questions about essay requirements or the selection process, feel free to contact us.