CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va (WVIR) —The Charlottesville community is reacting to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors decision to enact what it calls a "zero-tolerance" policy to sexual assault on grounds. The board was under community pressure to make a change following a Rolling Stone magazine article detailing the problem of sexual violence at the university.
Rutherford Institute President John Whitehead says he's had experience dealing with zero-tolerance policies all across the nation. He says the concern here is if done hastily, this type of response can produce disastrous results.
The school is under pressure right now to respond to the allegations brought forth in the Rolling Stone article, but Whitehead says any decision regarding school policy has to be carefully thought out. He says the school will need to clearly define the often ambiguous term sexual assault. That means working with an attorney to draw up an exact definition of behavior that will not be tolerated going forward.
"They haven't taken it all that seriously until now, they've waited too late and so, but here's the key right now. We don't want to panic and do something incredibly stupid, to make the University of Virginia look stupid. So clearly define the policy, what you're talking about,” said Whitehead.
"We want to turn this tragedy into an opportunity and lead the country in finding solutions,” said UVA Rector and Board of Visitors member George Martin.
Whitehead says in his career he has seen students end up in court for something as small as a kiss on the cheek because of a poorly worded policy.
Whitehead also says this is an opportunity for UVA to set a constructive example for other universities to follow to put a stop to what is a national problem, but he says a policy that can do that can't be thrown together immediately.