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PR: Effort to Restore Due Process on Campus Gains Traction

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Contact: Christopher Perry

Telephone: 301-801-0608


Sexual Assault: Effort to Restore Due Process on Campus Gains Traction

WASHINGTON / May 14, 2018 – Over the past seven months, leading liberal and conservative voices have worked to restore due process and fairness in campus sexual assault policies. Such initiatives reveal a growing trend being supported by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Last September, Betsy DeVos, Republican Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, rescinded the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, a policy that was widely viewed as infringing on fundamental due process rights of accused students (1).  The following month, Democrat Jerry Brown, governor of California, vetoed a bill that would have imposed many of the Department of Education’s anti-due process requirements on California universities (2).

Likewise in Massachusetts, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives declined to take action on H.632, which had been previously passed by the state’s Senate. Critics of H.632 highlighted the flaws of trauma-informed training for investigators and adjudicators, a provision that had been derided as “junk science.” (3)

The pro-due process trend gathered momentum in 2018, as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg offered this commentary: “The person who is accused has a right to defend herself or himself, and we certainly should not lose sight of that. …There’s been criticism of some college codes of conduct for not giving the accused person a fair opportunity to be heard, and that’s one of the basic tenets of our system, as you know, everyone deserves a fair hearing.” (4)

In Maryland, lawmakers took up Senate Bill 607, which required disciplinary proceedings to include a description of the rights for students and specified that an institution may not prevent a student from retaining an attorney. The bill recently passed both the Maryland Senate and House with strong bipartisan support (5).

In Colorado, House Bill 18-1391 was approved in the House. But because it failed to include sufficient due process protections, the bill it was significantly amended by Republicans in the Senate, resulting in the bill’s indefinite postponement (6).

In West Virginia, House Bill 2825, a bill that would have mandated worrisome “affirmative consent” polices at the state’s colleges, was not voted upon prior to adjournment of the state legislature (7).

In Mississippi, House Bill 1438, which was devoid of adequate due process protections, died in the Senate Judiciary Committee (8).

The editorial boards of two liberal-leaning newspapers likewise have called on colleges to involve criminal justice officials to investigate felony-level crimes. In January, the Detroit News opined, “Federal, state and campus policy regarding sexual assault should change to treat it as the serious crime it is, and assure that it is probed by experienced, professional investigators independent of the university.” (9) Last month, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch board issued a similar plea: “The pain lives on at universities whenever sex-abuse cases are handled quietly in-house rather than by competent legal authorities.” (10)

A summary of the current status of the state-level sexual assault bills introduced in 2018 is available on the SAVE website (11). In Congress, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have spoken out on the need for due process and to strengthen the role of the criminal justice system (12).

SAVE urges state and federal lawmakers to recognize the growing trend for impartial and fair proceedings in campus sexual assault cases.  SAVE offers a model bill titled the Campus Equality, Fairness, and Transparency Act (13).



SAVE — Stop Abusive and Violent Environments — is working for effective and fair solutions to domestic violence and campus sexual assault: