IN THE NEW YORK TIMES, Judith Shulevitz on Campus Rape Hysteria.
What explains the nearly universal lack of confidence in these proceedings? Universities share some of the blame, but there’s another culprit too: the United States government. People often wonder why college administrators try to adjudicate these fiendishly difficult cases, rather than putting them in the hands of the criminal justice system.
The reason is that the Department of Education has very forcefully told schools to handle sexual grievances themselves and given them very detailed instructions about how to do so. A report last year from a White House task force on campus sexual assault underscored the importance to a university of following that advice. Even though the D.O.E.’s instructions are presented as recommendations rather than law, its Office for Civil Rights can put any school that fails to follow them on the list of colleges under investigation and even take away its federal funding.
There’s no doubt that on many occasions colleges have not treated sexual-assault accusations as seriously as they should have. Nor did they do enough to ensure that women felt completely safe on campus. But in the past half-decade, the civil rights office has tried so hard to correct that problem that it is now forcing schools to go too far in the other direction, which has made campus procedures seem even less credible. Schools are being told to disregard what most Americans think of as the basic civil rights of a person accused of a heinous act.
The schools haven’t mounted much in the way of principled resistance, I have to say. But read the whole thing, which suggests that good sense may be making a comeback.