Sexual Misconduct

Take a look at this InsideHigherEd article:

Classrooms, Courts or Neither?
Students, administrators and lawyers argue over whether and how colleges should adjudicate campus assault cases at U. of Virginia conference on sexual misconduct.

Jane Buck, Ph.D.

At-large member of the Council
Past President
American Association of University Professors*

* The organizational affiliation is listed for identification purposes only and does not imply any endorsement by the organization.

One thought on “Sexual Misconduct

  1. The main issue seems to involve those cases in which a criminal assault is alleged but cannot be prosecuted because of a lack of sufficient evidence. A large part of the problem in those cases may be that they are often not treated and investigated as criminal cases from the very beginning. But, putting that consideration aside, the issue then becomes whether some sort of campus adjudication of the matter can be used to accomplish a resolution unavailable through the criminal justice system.

    I don’t see how this is possible without opening the institution to a lawsuit from either the alleged victim or the alleged perpetrator. I don’t see how a university with no formal judicial authority can determine when the rights of an alleged victim outweigh the rights of an alleged perpetrator, or vice versa. Or when a concern for campus safety outweighs the need to insure that everyone receives fair treatment through due process.

    This conundrum reminds me of the practice of bringing a civil case against a defendant who has been found not guilty in a criminal proceeding. Recall the O.J. Simpson murder trials. In the second, civil case, the standard for finding him guilty of/responsible for the two murders was much lower: “beyond a reasonable doubt” was replaced by a “preponderance of the evidence.” I am not a lawyer, but I did listen to a seemingly endless succession of lawyers discussing that case, and none of them convinced me that the civil trial did not amount to double jeopardy. No matter how satisfying the verdict in the civil case may have been to those convinced of Simpson’s guilt, it simply doesn’t make sense that someone should have to compensate the victims’ families for a crime that he was not convicted of committing.

    In any case, a court of law is governed by much stricter rules and more extensive precedents than any institutional hearing is going to be conducted by. So the chances that such are hearing will not reflect the prevailing emotions among the participants seems to me to be very slim.

    It may be–and I write this with acute awareness of the irony in my suggesting it–that the only way out of this conundrum may be to insist that alleged victims whose cases do not meet the evidence bar for criminal prosecution pursue civil suits against the alleged perpetrators. And while such a case is in process, both students can be provided with “alternatives” to on-site classes that serve to meet any concerns about both due process and campus safety. (This course of action would, of course, not preclude both students from receiving any services that the institution provides to victims of crimes or to students whose studies have been unexpectedly disrupted.)

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