The Trouble with Campus Rape Tribunals

The Trouble with Campus Rape Tribunals
by Robert Carle


The scourge of sexual assaults on college campuses rightly fills us with rage and indignation. But crimes that produce such visceral emotions need to be adjudicated in an impartial and dispassionate manner. A student found responsible for sexual assault is almost always expelled from school and barred from campus. His permanent record will often note that he was found guilty of sexual assault, thereby limiting his educational, employment, and housing opportunities. Such a life-shattering event warrants high standards of due process protections for the accused. Our courts provide such protections. Campus tribunals, which are conducted by amateurs in emotionally charged atmospheres, do not. Unfortunately, President Obama is using his authority under Title IX to vastly expand the role of campus tribunals in adjudicating cases of sexual assault.

In April 2011, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights sent out a “Dear Colleague Letter” (linked) that outlined steps that colleges must take to respond to sexual assault on campus. This letter called for sensible reforms such as … . But the letter also ordered colleges and universities to investigate and adjudicate students’ reports of sexual assault, even if the alleged victim decides not to have a medical exam or report the incident to the police. Colleges that do not take the steps recommended by the Office for Civil Rights will lose federal funding and be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for litigation.

… the Department of Justice’s May 9, 2013 letter (linked) to the President of the University of Montana, the Obama administration admonishes colleges and universities to dramatically expand their definitions of what constitutes sexual harassment and assault and to lower standards of evidence needed to find students responsible for sexual assault. Not Alone, a White House report released on April 29, 2014 (linked), criticizes our “adversarial, evidence-gathering criminal justice model” and commends schools that appoint a single investigator to “interview the complainant and alleged perpetrator, gather any physical evidence, interview available witnesses—and then . . . render a finding.”

A single-investigator model spares complainants from cross-examination, but it also places students at grave risk of not being able to defend themselves against false accusations. …

This bypassing of the criminal justice system where investigation and trial are concerned, while imposing life-changing penalties comes straight from the White House!