Colleges can't win when it comes to campus sexual assault complaints
It doesn't seem to matter what a college does when responding to a sexual assault accusation — they are always wrong. That's according to the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, which investigates colleges and universities for alleged Title IX violations.
In a recent ruling against Michigan State University, OCR determined the school had violated Title IX because it took too long — four days — to remove accused students from their dorms. The fact that the students weren't immediately evicted from campus, even though an investigation hadn't even started, was also evidence of a violation.
OCR looked at two complaints, from students identified as Student A and Student B, to determine MSU was in violation of Title IX. While OCR mostly found "insufficient evidence" to support the complaints of the two students, what the agency found the university in violation of seemed like nitpicking.
"OCR also determined that the University failed to provide a prompt and equitable response to complaints filed by Student A and Student B, as Title IX requires," wrote Meena Morey Chandra, a regional OCR director.
But according to OCR's own report, university administrators began looking into the accusation the day after it was reported, they just hadn't launched a formal investigation. The accuser had gone to a local hospital and while there, staff from MSU's sexual assault program gave her "information on free counseling and advocacy services provided by the University, contact information for the campus police, and information about how to file a request with the University's student judicial system to have the male students' housing reassigned."
Staff from the university counseling center and a campus police detective also helped the accuser obtain a Personal Protection Order (PPO) against the two male students she claimed assaulted her.
My goodness, all of that as she was in the hospital making her accusation? I'm not sure how much sooner they could have responded to her accusation without having "Minority Report" clairvoyance.
The day after the female student made the accusation while at a hospital, the university spoke to the two male students who had been identified. The students were told not to contact the accuser and to avoid her at social gatherings.
Because the accuser declined to file a formal complaint, the university did not begin investigating the claim until months later when OCR provided the university "technical assistance" regarding its Title IX procedures. MSU said it hired an outside investigator to look into the accuser's claim as training for future investigations.
When discussing campus sexual assault, many activists insist on a "victim-centered" approach that puts accusers at the helm of the investigation. Accusers decide how they want to proceed once an accusation is made — whether through an informal complaint, a formal complaint leading to a campus investigation or through the criminal justice system. Now, through its MSU ruling, OCR is telling schools to ignore what an accuser wants and to open up an investigation as soon as an accusation is made. This requires interviews with the accuser and fact-finding that may further traumatize an accuser who did not want such an investigation in the first place, as appears to be the case with the accuser at MSU.
Despite the MSU accuser not filing a formal complaint with the university against the two accused students (which would have been required to remove the students from their dorms) the university moved the students.
So, to the OCR, a university that received word of a sexual assault — even if it wasn't provided in a formal complaint — must immediately upend the accused student's life and then begin an investigation. Guilty until proven innocent indeed.
Speaking of innocence, both MSU's outside investigator and OCR determined that there was not even a preponderance of evidence to suggest the alleged sexual assault had occurred. (By the way, some of the evidence that was favorable to the accused students was deemed "inappropriate" to OCR, but it still determined the sexual assault likely didn't happen.)
Yet despite this, the university was still in the wrong, according to OCR. The university should have immediately opened an investigation into the matter even though the accuser did not want one. This is how the school failed to provide a "prompt and equitable response."
The OCR rightly notes that the school actually did take prompt measures to accommodate the accuser immediately, as noted above. But none of that matters because the school didn't also investigate the claim against the accuser's wishes.
Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute wrote in his analysis of this case that it is not the first time OCR has required schools to provide "remedies" for students who appear to have lied about sexual assault.
Bader notes that last year, OCR complained about Tufts University including evidence in favor of an accused student that ultimately led to him being found not responsible for sexual assault. OCR never determined that the accuser in that case was telling the truth, it simply did not approve of Tufts allowing the accused student to present his case.
In the Tufts case as well as the MSU case, the notion that an accuser who did not actually experience a sexual assault must be provided remedies to protect herself is "weird, unjust and illogical," according to Bader.
At MSU, the accuser continually claimed that the accused students violated their PPO because they happened to be somewhere when the accuser arrived and didn't immediately leave. For example, the accuser claimed on several occasions that she entered a university dining hall and saw the accused students, who made eye contact with her but continued eating instead of abandoning their trays and leaving. Police determined the men hadn't violated the PPOs.
One time, the accuser entered a study area available to all students and saw the accused students. They were in their own private room in the building with a tutor, behind a closed door. But the accuser could see them through the glass. She sat outside the door for 30 minutes but the men continued to study with their tutors.
She then reported them for breaking the PPO. Police told her the PPO had exceptions, but the university still assigned the accused students a specific study area and "required them to use a separate entrance from the general student body."
Basically, a woman who made an unfounded claim against two men wanted those men to drop whatever they were doing and run in the opposite direction any time they saw her.
And OCR is rewarding that.
Do a Google search for OCR finding a school was not in violation of Title IX, and nothing comes up. It appears OCR is looking for ways to find schools in violation of Title IX, no matter how questionable those reasons are.