How Is Government Handling Sexual Assaults On College Campuses?

Published: Tuesday, August 29, 2017 - 5:13pm
Updated: Tuesday, August 29, 2017 - 5:23pm

When Candice Jackson, acting head of the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights recently said that “90 percent” of campus sexual assaults “fall into the category of ‘We were both drunk, we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation,” it caused an uproar.

She quickly apologized, saying, “all sexual harassment and sexual assault must be taken seriously.”

But, the exchange only brought more attention to the way the federal government is handling sexual assault cases on university campuses.

Under President Obama, guidance came down that lowered the standard of evidence for campus sexual assault cases, making it easier for the accuser to win their case.

But the word “guidance” is key here — nothing was ever set into law, leaving this new procedure up to interpretation.

Now under the Trump administration and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, that guidance may be walked back. She has commented publicly that while lives have been ruined by sexual assault, lives have also “been ruined" by allegations of sexual assault. This is because critics say the campus courts have been unfair to the accused — suggesting they are “kangaroo courts.”

So did Obama-era Title IX guidance go too far?

According to Jeannie Suk Gersen, professor of law at Harvard University, that might be the case. She wrote about this subject for the New Yorker and I spoke with her recently, and I asked her about something DeVos said, that campus sexual assault cases have problems with evidentiary standards like due process. Is that her experience?

If the directives behind the Title IX “guidance” for prosecutions on campuses are murky, so are the protections for victims, or so our next guest revealed with her reporting from the campus of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. 

ESPN writer Paula Lavigne, author of “Violated: Exposing Rape at Baylor University amid College Football's Sexual Assault Crisis,” broke open campus sexual assault cover-ups at Baylor University, and she found a system that often left both the victim and the accused unsatisfied.

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