Even sexual assault activists want a fair campus process
Wanting a fair process when it comes to adjudicating campus sexual assault isn't just beneficial to those accused — it can help accusers as well.
At least that's what a group of victim's advocates wrote on Wednesday in a letter to university presidents.
"First, many of the same procedures criticized by accused students hurt victims as well.
"Second, the authorities to which student victims turn for support in the wake of violence will only be effective if they are perceived as even-handed and legitimate by all.
"Third, we understand our fight as part of a broader struggle for equality in education, and worry that barebones procedural protections leave room for discrimination, including on the basis of race and class, in investigation and sanctioning.
"Fourth, as students whose educational opportunities have been imperiled and limited by violence, we understand too well the harm of unjust deprivations of the right to learn."
The activists point out that they do not believe what due process activists have been saying for over a year — that the pendulum has swung and that now accused students are the ones who are treated unfairly.
The activists, members of the group "Know Your IX" – named after the law that has been interpreted to require colleges to adjudicate campus sexual assault, Title IX — provide a list of some basic protections needed to ensure a fair process. Some of their requests include "the right to guidance from a trained advocate" and "the right not to self-incriminate if criminal charges are possible or pending."
These are all good things, but the problem for activists is that a fair process might lead to fewer students being punished based solely on an accusation. It might mean having to accept the fact that some accusers truly aren't victims (think Rolling Stone's Jackie, Duke's Crystal Mangum and any number of "survivors" who regretted an encounter and were coached by a feminist professor into thinking they were raped).
As to one of the requirements mentioned by the activists — having a trained advocate — some schools are looking beyond that to actual lawyers. This should be something all schools allow, because a fair process can't stem from two scared kids who aren't lawyers trying to adjudicate something that is actually a felony.
And just as it's not fair that the accused student is going up against an accuser with the Title IX office and current culture behind them, it isn't fair then to provide attorneys to only the accused, since then the accuser would be going up against a trained professional.
Then again, the more like a criminal trial these proceedings become in order to be perceived as fair, the less they are needed in the first place, as the cases could just be turned over to the actual criminal justice system. As I've written before, that wouldn't the eliminate the role of the school, as they could still make a big difference by providing support for their students.