Properly addressing complaints of sexual assault on college campuses has become a hot-button topic over the last few years, with both sides weighing in heavily on what they think campus administrators should do about the issue.
On one side you have the advocates for the victims who believe that college campuses are failing to provide adequate services to students to prevent such crimes from occurring. Furthermore, they feel that the burden of proof is much too high at many colleges and universities, which creates barriers for those filing complaints.
To quell concerns, a White House task force issued new guidelines to colleges regarding sexual assault and how these cases should be handled. More than 85 colleges across the nation are now under investigation to determine if their policies regarding sexual assault meet these new guidelines.
But these guidelines, opponents point out, are causing campuses to panic and make rushed changes to policies in order to protect the rights of victims. While this is all well and good, opponents point out that this is having an adverse effect on those being accused — people who have just as much of a right to protection as victims do.
As has been illustrated in several lawsuits across the nation, lowering the burden of proof and over generalizing the term sexual assault has paved the way for false claims that can be incredibly damaging for the accused because it can mean suspension or even expulsion. Unlike criminal proceedings, accused college students are not afforded the same right to due process nor are they able to cross examine witnesses to prove their innocence.
In the end, they are treated like a criminal but are not afforded a criminal trial.
Even though protecting a victim’s rights is a good thing, it’s incredibly important for colleges to also protect the rights of the accused student as well. Creating guidelines with this balance will require an exceedingly large amount of finesse that, in the end, may not leave either party completely happy, but will at least ensure due process to avoid false accusations.
Source: The New York Times, “New Factor in Campus Sexual Assault Cases: Counsel for the Accused,” Ariel Kaminer, Nov. 19, 2014