Balancing Victims' Rights with the Rights of the Accused: Encouraging Participation in University Discipline by Improving Procedures Used to Adjudicate Sexual Misconduct Claims

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Walker, Tammi, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Reppucci, Nicholas, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

Institutions of higher education are scrambling to be seen as responsive to the problem of sexual violence on campus. Evidence-based guidance is needed to effectively reform the disciplinary process. The three studies in this dissertation test a model based upon procedural justice theory, which suggests that students’ willingness to cooperate with university authorities and students’ attitudes toward authorities may be influenced by the student’s perspective in the disciplinary process and whether students’ perceive the decision-making process to be fair. Each of the three studies used a between-subjects experimental design. Participants were current students or recent graduates of colleges or universities. Study 1 examined students’ perceptions of real-world policies and procedures and found that students clearly view some disciplinary procedures as more fair than others. Study 2 examined whether exposure to fair or unfair disciplinary procedures and the student’s perspective in the disciplinary process had and effect on students’ judgments about the process and students’ willingness to cooperate with university authorities. Study 2 found that willingness to cooperate with investigations into sexual misconduct was greater when students were exposed to fair policies and procedures. Study 3 examined outcome satisfaction and procedural justice judgments. Study 3 found that justice judgments had a greater effect on willingness to cooperate, but the strength of this effect varied according to outcome favorability and whether the student was the accused or the accuser of sexual misconduct. This dissertation provides support for the use of procedural justice theory a guide for the reform of university disciplinary systems.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
procedural justice theory, university discipline, sexual misconduct, cooperation
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