New college sex assault rules long overdue

College students accused of sexual assault found themselves in what were essentially kangaroo courts (“Betsy De Vos Reverses Obama-era Policy on Campus Sexual Assault Investigations,” The New York Times, Nov. 17).  But that is about to change – and not a moment too soon.

Defendants will soon have due process rights, including most importantly the right to cross-examine their accusers.  I never understood why administrators did not refer such cases to off-campus police.  I say that because the lives of many men have been ruined under the old system.  I’m not implying that all accused students are innocent.  On the contrary.  But they deserve the right to defend themselves when the stakes are so high.

If colleges and universities insist on trying sexual assault cases on campus, then it’s incumbent on them to adhere to the rules of criminal law.  I’m glad that some sense of fairness may finally come to higher education.  My main concern is that schools can still use a “preponderance of evidence” rather than “clear and convincing evidence” as the standard.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

 

2 Replies to “New college sex assault rules long overdue”

  1. Have very strong opinions re this issue. Completely agree that colleges should not be involved in investigating, prosecuting or adjudicating sex-assault allegations (with the very limited exception that colleges, like all employers, should investigate allegations that a college employee engaged in sexual misconduct on the job).

    Colleges are not a govt and colleges do not have the govt’s police powers (although a local or state govt can grant govt police powers to the officers of a college police force). Instead, colleges are employers (of faculty/staff), landlords (of students in the dorms), and sellers of services (education to students, research to grant funders). It follows that society should not expect colleges to perform the govt police functions of investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating sex-assault allegations to any greater extent than society expects employers, landlords, and sellers of services to perform those govt police functions.

    Colleges lack the expertise, the investigative powers, and the qualified immunity from civil lawsuits that are possessed by the police, the DAs and the criminal courts. Expecting — or worse, requiring — colleges to perform functions for which they lack expertise and powers and for which they can readily be sued by anyone unhappy with the way the college performs the functions is a recipe for disaster — unfair acquittals, unfair convictions, and many lawsuits against the college.

    If an ATT employee allegedly rapes a woman on a date, if a tenant in an apartment house allegedly rapes a woman at a party in the tenant’s apartment, or if a patron in a movie theater allegedly gropes another patron during the movie, society does not expect ATT, the landlord or the theater owner to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate the alleged sex assault. Nor should society expect a college to perform these functions when a student alleges that another student committed a sex assault.

    When the federal Dept of Ed years ago responded to the epidemic of college sex assaults by requiring colleges to perform the investigation, prosecution and adjudication functions in sex-assault cases, it was a classic case of well-intentioned govt officials irrationally responding to intense pressure to “just do something” about a problem that received widespread publicity. Such irrational govt responses unfortunately provide powerful ammunition for conservatives who oppose govt efforts to solve societal problems that do require a govt solution. If the feds wanted to address the college sex-assault problem, the correct approach would have been for the feds to pressure local and state police to take college student sex-assault allegations more seriously + to require colleges to report sex-assault allegations to the police.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: The reputation of a college student could so easily be sullied when colleges alone investigated. Even if found innocent, the stain remained. Sexual assault is a serious matter that needs to be handled by off-campus police and by criminal courts to guarantee that due process is followed. That’s why the new rules are so badly needed. Hard-core feminists will not be pleased, but it’s long overdue.

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