Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bipartisan Senate bill on campus sexual assault seeks to ensure that every accusation is tantamount to a finding of guilt

The Senate's bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act is but latest effort by politicians to jump on the "get-tough-on-campus-rape" bandwagon. Like all the other recent efforts, it is premised on the assumption that college sexual assault investigations and the college disciplinary process don't function the way they should, and this "often has resulted in negative outcomes for survivors." The Senate seems to assume that every accusation that does not result in a finding of responsibility is an injustice. The goal of the new legislation is to correct that, and to nab more college rapists.

There's one little problem: the proposed legislation is not at all concerned that at least some students accused of sexual assault might not be guilty. The bill contains no "provisions to safeguard the due process rights of accused students." None whatsoever. The unmistakable premise of the bill is that accusers are "victims," and accusers are repeatedly referred to as "victims" throughout the bill.

Here is one example of how the new law seeks to insure that the playing field is heavily tilted in favor of finding guilt in sexual assault cases. Under the proposed legislation, colleges and universities will be required to designate "Confidential Advisors" who will serve as a confidential resource for "victims" (accusers). According to the proposed legislation: "The confidential advisor shall also advise the victim of both the victim’s rights and the institution’s responsibilities regarding orders of protection, no contact orders, restraining orders, or similar lawful orders issued by the institution or a criminal, civil, or tribal court." (Section 125(1)(G))

There is no provision requiring that any representative of the institution advise the accused of his rights, or of the institution's responsibilities, in the wake of an accusation. None. Our readers are aware that colleges and universities are notoriously hostile to the accused's legal representation (by a lawyer paid for by the accused). The United States Senate doesn't even care if the accused is advised of his rights.

Words matter, especially in laws that will penalize colleges for non-compliance. College administrators are being told, in none-too-subtle ways, that accusers are victims, and that colleges had better start expelling more men accused of sexual assault. When you factor in the absence of any meaningful due process for men accused of sexual assault, the accusation will be tantamount to a finding of guilt.

It is disgusting that our friends in the feminist community do not share our concerns about fairness for the accused in college disciplinary proceedings. In perhaps the most astounding display of misandry this blog has seen, one feminist college professor said this about the lawsuits against colleges filed by men claiming they've been deprived of their due process rights: "These lawsuits are an incredible display of entitlement, the same entitlement that drove them to rape." Sadly, this attitude seems to be the one in vogue in Washington.

Whatever laudatory impulse might have prompted this most recent legislation has been tainted by its blatant hostility to fundamental notions of fairness for students accused of sexual assault. We need to urge our senators to modify this legislation to insure that the accused are afforded fundamental due process protections.