Campus Accountability and Safety Act

Four opinion polls reveal Americans place far greater confidence in the criminal justice system than in campus committees to handle sexual assault allegations. Nonetheless, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act endorses and expands upon the current regime of campus adjudication of sexual assault cases.

Over the years, CASA has engendered opposition from numerous organizations and individuals from across the ideological spectrum. Following are statements by 40 organizations (and several individuals) opposing the Campus Accountability and Safety Act and/or calling for the referral of sexual assault cases to local criminal justice authorities:

  • Higher education associations — 16 groups
  • Legal groups — 5 groups
  • Victim advocacy groups — 5 groups
  • Civil rights and other organizations — 9 groups
  • Media outlets — 6 groups
  • University faculty members and administrators — 6 individuals

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

CASA was first introduced in 2014 (S.2692 and H.R.5354). It was reintroduced in the 114th Session of Congress (S. 590 and H.R.1310), and again in the 115th Session as S. 856 and H.R.1949. Despite strong criticism by a wide range of groups, the provisions of CASA have changed little over the years.

HIGHER EDUCATION ASSOCIATIONS

The following higher education associations have co-signed a 12-page letter featuring a detailed critique of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act. The letter emphasizes that “campus disciplinary processes are not proxies for the criminal justice system:”

  1. American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers
  2. American Association of Community Colleges
  3. American Association of State Colleges and Universities
  4. American Council on Education
  5. American Indian Higher Education Consortium
  6. Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges
  7. Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities
  8. Association of American Universities
  9. Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
  10. Council for Christian Colleges and Universities
  11. EDUCAUSE
  12. NASPA — Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education
  13. National Association of College and University Business Officers
  14. National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

In addition, two other higher education organizations have issued statements opposing colleges’ involvement in adjudicating sexual assault claims:

  1. Colleges “lack the courts’ power to subpoena and the expertise of attorneys, judges, and police. In the face of ambiguous evidence, they are ill-equipped to determine the validity of a charge.” — American Council of Trustees and Alumni
  2. “OCR gives college and university administrations authority to adjudicate highly-sensitive sexual assault cases, cases that are best left to the police and the criminal court system.” — National Association of Scholars

LEGAL GROUPS

  1. “There is broad consensus that colleges are ill-equipped to investigate and adjudicate sexual assault accusations…as such, colleges ideally should be required by your legislation is refer such matters to local law enforcement.” —Group of Twenty Attorneys
  2. “Higher education institutions are not designed, financed or suited to simultaneously play prosecutor, judge and jury. Faculty, administration and staff cannot magically be transformed into district attorneys and public defenders” — Legal Intelligencer
  3. “Harvard has adopted procedures for deciding cases of alleged sexual misconduct which lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process, are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused, and are in no way required by Title IX law or regulation.” — Twenty-eight members of the Harvard Law School Faculty
  4. “It is not altogether clear, however, why the federal government requires such serious cases to be handled by campus tribunals staffed by academics, instead of by professional judges and lawyers. Perhaps it is time to funnel the more serious cases through the criminal justice process and to make that process much more accessible to and supportive of sexual assault complainants.” — Sixteen members of the University of Pennsylvania Law School
  5. “Sexual assault should be adjudicated in courts, not in campus tribunals.” — Witherspoon Institute

VICTIM ADVOCACY GROUPS

  1. “Campus-based adjudication processes don’t work. Colleges alone are not competent to handle the investigation and prosecution of these cases, nor should they be. The college hearing process should be integrated with law enforcement.” — Day One Sexual Assault and Trauma Center
  2. We “recognize that replicating criminal procedures and unequal evidentiary burdens on campus is not only unnecessary but dangerously counterproductive and contrary to Title IX’s commitment to equality in education.” — Know Your IX
  3. “Why not leave this serious issue [rape cases] to the criminal courts? It really is important to give the district attorney all the possible leeway and evidence and ability to conduct interviews.” — Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape
  4. “We urge the federal government to explore ways to ensure that college and universities treat allegations of sexual assault as they would murder and other violent felonies.” — Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network
  5. Our “grave concern is the capacity, the competence, and the appropriateness of colleges dealing with rape outside the criminal justice system.” — Women’s Law Project

CIVIL RIGHTS AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS

  1. “We believe that any claim of sexual assault should be placed in the hands of our judicial system and law enforcement agencies.” — Beyond the Registry
  2. “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.” — Community of the Wrongly Accused
  3. “Rape is a crime of violence that is specifically designated and defined as such under the penal code. Its investigation and prosecution must be referred to the police and the district attorney, not left in the hands of inexperienced college administrators who lack the knowledge, understanding, investigative tools and authority to adjudicate in this domain, let alone to impose punishment that fits the crime.” – Families Advocating for Campus Equality
  4. “Only law enforcement is properly equipped to adjudicate allegations of sexual assault.” — Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
  5. “We believe any crime that involves bodily harm – which automatically encompasses any sexual assault – should be handled primarily in the criminal justice system” — Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee, National Panhellenic Conference, and the North-American Interfraternity Conference
  6. CASA “doesn’t protect the rights of the accused, some of whom are not guilty. The presumption of guilt permeates this bill.” – Independent Women’s Forum
  7. CASA “should direct that all matters involving alleged sexual assault are handled by local law enforcement, and schools should be required to defer any investigation or adjudication of allegations of sexual assault until law enforcement has completed their investigation.” — National Coalition for Men – Carolinas
  8. “Sexual assault cases require the full resources of the criminal justice system, not a sorry replay of vigilante justice meted out by untrained amateurs.” — Stop Abusive and Violent Environments
  9. CASA is a “flawed response to an exaggerated problem” and a “well-intended but ultimately misguided piece of legislation.” — Title IX for All

MEDIA OUTLETS

The following media outlets — and numerous commentators — have criticized campus sex tribunals because they lack the necessary expertise, independence, and legal authority to handle sexual assault cases:

  1. “Students on both sides of the fence have complained that these amateur tribunals are inept…Critics of the system argue that crimes should be dealt with by the police and the courts.” — The Economist
  2. “CASA dramatically compromises just procedures in order to brand male students as rapists. And it does so without protecting victims of actual violence who are best served by going to the police.” — ifeminists.com
  3. “Schools are not law enforcement agencies; they’re not set up to conduct investigations or hold trials or render verdicts, yet they are required to do so under federal law.” — Los Angeles Times Editorial Board
  4. There is “only one public institution well suited to dealing with rape and other crimes, and it is the criminal-justice system.” – National Review Editors
  5. “But university tribunals have often failed to properly conduct inquiries best left to trained investigators, or to protect rights of the accused.” — New York Daily News
  6. “Until colleges and local government find a way to bring the full power of criminal courts to bear on sexual assault among students, campus courts will remain second-class justice for both rape victims and those who are accused.” — USA Today Editorial Board

UNIVERSITY FACULTY MEMBERS AND ADMINISTRATORS

  1. “[O]rdinary citizens are shocked to discover that what amount to criminal accusations are not adjudicated by criminal courts with standard protections for the accused.” — Stephen Baskerville, Patrick Henry College
  2. “Colleges don’t have the ability to investigate sex crimes or the right to properly punish them any more than they can enforce the law regarding robbery or homicide.” — Philip Cohen, University of Maryland
  3. “What’s frustrating for college administrators is that we are not a police entity. We have no subpoena power, no way to compel testimony, no forensics ability” — Al Renville, vice president of student services, Butte College, Oroville, CA
  4. “It is important for us to acknowledge that part of improving the campus response to sexual assault is improving the law enforcement response, so that it can be a viable, victim-centered option; close coordination between campus and law enforcement responders is vital.” — Angela Fleisher, Assistant Director of Student Support and Intervention, Southern Oregon University
  5. “The collection and maintenance of evidence for a criminal prosecution is tightly controlled by procedural rules. This is not the case with administrative proceedings. The way that campus officials receive and treat evidence in an administrative investigation can negatively impact its admissibility in court, potentially undermining a criminal case.” — Police Chief Cathy Zoner, Cornell University