An excerpt from an article written by Robert Shibley, an attorney, is Senior Vice President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
On Tuesday, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault unveiled its first report. Created after a record number of complaints filed by students against universities about their handling of sexual assault on campus, including complaints against Harvard and Tufts, the task force made recommendations to colleges on how they can better prevent and address sexual harassment and assault. Unfortunately, students’ rights to due process and fundamental fairness have been lost in the shuffle.
One of the first questions many people ask on this issue is, “Why are colleges holding rape trials anyway?” Good question. They do so because they are required to under Title IX, the 1972 federal law banning sex discrimination in educational programs. But don’t bother looking at the text of Title IX, which makes no mention of rape hearings at all. The requirement instead comes from mountains of federal regulations and piecemeal statutes that hold colleges to standards that are nearly impossible to meet or even comprehend.
Tufts is currently finding this out the hard way. The university came to a voluntary agreement with the Boston office of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR, the agency tasked with enforcing the statute) on April 17 over how to remedy past Title IX problems. But just days later, the Washington OCR office told Tufts that its new policies also failed to comply with Title IX.
Rape is perhaps the most serious felony other than murder. Whether one in five women on campus are victims of rape (as the White House claims) or the figure is more like 3 percent (as another study suggests) makes little difference as far as real justice is concerned. Serious crimes call for serious procedures and the consistent involvement of law enforcement professionals. Both victims and those accused on campus deserve better than what they’re getting now — or what they’re likely to get as a result of the White House task force’s report.
Read the entire article HERE