Tuesday, May 6, 2014
From the NYT, Fight Against Sexual Assault Holds Colleges to Account. The many news accounts have been tracking colleges' failures to properly investigate complaints of sexual assault, delaying action, using sloppy fact gathering, authorizing untrained decisionmakers, and refusing to issue effective sanctions or preventions. This article points to other systemic failures.
1. Universities Haven't Prioritized the Issue
“It just hasn’t been on most university administrators’ agendas; they don’t know how to approach it, and they just haven’t taken the time to be informed,” said Bonnie S. Fisher, a professor at the University of Cincinnati’s School of Criminal Justice and an author of some of the largest studies of campus sex crimes. “It’s just another issue on their desks that they’re hoping doesn’t cause a loss of students or bad media attention.”
2. The Obama administation has used a stricter interpretation of existing laws.
Universities have increasingly been told that this means they are required to protect students from sexual harassment and assault. In 2011, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights sent a letter to colleges, putting them on notice that it saw many of them as mishandling sexual assault cases, and that it would use a new, stricter interpretation of their duties under Title IX.
That helped fuel a jump in Title IX complaints filed with the Office for Civil Rights by students against colleges, specifically about their responses to sexual violence — from 11 in the 2009-10 fiscal year to 31 in 2012-13 and 37 in the first eight months of the current year.
At the same time, the Clery Act requires federally financed colleges and universities to disclose the number of cases of sexual assault reported on or near their campuses each year.
3. Education, maybe, is a unique context.
The Obama administration has told universities they must use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard in deciding whether to hold an accused student responsible, not the stricter “clear and convincing” rule many used. Some civil libertarians have cried foul, and public universities have asked whether the rule could conflict with the due process rights they, as arms of the states, must give the accused.