After The Williams Record published a woman’s account of the way the university handled a 2012 report that she had been sexually assaulted by a fellow student, students and alumni have responded by petitioning the liberal arts college to adopt new policies when it comes to investigation reports, The Boston Globe reported. Williams College has defended its actions but says it cannot comment on the case because of privacy laws.
Source: The Boston Globe, Williams College roiled by report of rape. (May 24, 2014)
Former SPLC Attorney Advocate Adam Goldstein: Mmmm, no.
I mean, sure, there are lots of things the school couldn’t say under FERPA. But there’s a whole lot it can talk about that isn’t covered by FERPA, too. And since what they said was they “can’t comment,” that’s entirely wrong.
To put it another way, an administrator saying he can’t comment on this situation because of FERPA is like a guy saying he can’t eat at McDonalds because the screws on the playground hurt his teeth. You can’t hide behind the short list of things you can’t say as an excuse to sweep the things you won’t say under the rug.
First, since the player was found responsible, the school can release the sanction and the findings of the panel that found him responsible.
Second, anything that isn’t from a record is something the school can discuss. And third, anything that isn’t specifically about a particular student, the school can discuss.
So, for example, the school could explain why it thinks that a three semester suspension is an acceptable sanction for sexual assault. It could answer whether it has a practice of telling students not to report sexual assault to the police. It could talk about what steps it takes, in general, to protect victims.
But, of course, Williams College doesn’t want to answer any of those questions. Because there’s no reason under the sun to tell someone not to report a violent crime, or to defend the sanction of three months of free vacation as a punishment for rape.
And if you’re not going to explain yourself, Williams College, then shut up altogether, because nobody wants to hear you pat yourself on the back for how you handled this.
We rate this: Not protected by FERPA at all