Rights Group Petitions Senate Over Campus Sexual Assault
June 30, 2016
Students accused of campus sexual assault deserve a meaningful chance to defend themselves, which is why a due process rights group is petitioning members of the Senate over federal directives surrounding the issue.
Stop Abusive and Violent Environments has created a petition on Change.org that would be sent to Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray (chairman and ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, respectively). The petition calls on the senators and other members of the committee to “rein in the federal Office for Civil Rights” when reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.
OCR, a division of the Education Department, is responsible for forcing colleges and universities to adjudicate campus sexual assault in pseudo-court systems, using the low “preponderance of evidence” standard found in civil court to find students guilty but without the accompanying due process protections. What’s more, a finding of responsibility can have detrimental consequences for the accused more akin to those meted out by criminal courts.
OCR in its “guidance” documents has broadened the definition of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The petition brought by SAVE aims to rein in the agency’s overreach, citing as examples two victims of OCR’s zeal: Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis and Colorado State University-Pueblo student Grant Neal.
Kipnis was investigated for violating Title IX because she wrote an article critical of the way her school and others had been handling campus sexual assault. She was eventually cleared of wrongdoing, perhaps in part thanks to a follow-up article she wrote exposing the bias and unfairness of the investigation against her. But students who are investigated don’t have the same option Kipnis had, and likely wouldn’t be believed, given the push by activists and OCR to find the accused guilty as often as possible.
Neal was accused by a peer of a woman he slept with, who noticed a bite on the woman’s neck and assumed she had been raped. Neal recorded a conversation with the alleged victim, in which she tells him and several other people that no rape occurred and the entire situation was “not even worth any of his hoopla!”
It didn’t matter: Neal was suspended (and will likely not return, as news of an alleged rapists return to campus always sparks outrage and protests). He is now suing the federal government.
“Accused students often aren’t given specifics of the complaint and may not even be allowed to see the evidence being used against them,” the Change.org petition states. Investigations are biased against the defendant. The presumption of innocence no longer applies.”
The petition is, at the time of this writing, seven signatures short of reaching its goal.