Sexual assault on college campus is a disturbing headline-grabber, these days. But, as is often the case during public policy panics, not every response is a good one. Writing in Time, Reason contributing editor Cathy Young warns that the White House's initiative against campus rape runs the risk of turning its back on due process and protections for the accused.
Even in smaller numbers, sexual assault on campus is a cause for concern. But the government's quest to address it creates new troubling issues.
Thus, since 2011, the Department of Education has recommended that colleges use the lowest burden of proof—"preponderance of the evidence," which means a finding of guilt if one feels the evidence tips even slightly toward the complainant—in disciplinary proceedings on sexual assault. (Traditionally, charges of student misconduct have been judged by the higher standard of "clear and convincing evidence.") The new guidelines make this a requirement; they also encourage "juries" with no student participation and even a shift to a single-investigator process.
Missing is virtually any recognition of the need for fairness to the accused. The recent White House Council on Women and Girls report on sexual assault dismisses false accusations as a "myth," citing a 2010 article by University of Massachusetts Boston psychologist David Lisak that concluded that "only 2-10% of reported rapes are false." Yet a 10% error rate is hardly trivial. This estimate also refers only to proven fabrications; no one knows how many unresolved charges, nearly half of Lisak's university sample, may be false. And people may be wrongly accused because of confusion rather than deliberate lies—especially when drinking is involved.
Read the whole article here.
Don't miss Young's recent article for Reason on campus rape and flawed responses to the same: "Guilty Until Proven Innocent."