There has been widespread concern that the Obama administration's guidelines for handling rape accusations on campus eliminate due process for the accused. There is concern thast the guidelines imply that a rape accusation against a male student by a female student is always true. The guidelines are promulgated under Title IX.

The larger question is why campus tribunals rather than law enforcement are entrusted with handling this very serious crime.

An email from an advocacy organization called Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) indicates that tribunals may indeed be proving as bad as feared.  SAVE notes:

In four recent cases, judges have overturned sexual assault findings by campus disciplinary committees. In each case, the judges ruled the college proceedings lacked necessary due process protections. As the new academic year begins, these judicial decisions highlight the need for renewed focus on fairness in college sex assault cases, SAVE says. 

The most recent reversal involves accusations at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va.  The young man disputed the accusations against him but was expelled. He later sued, claiming that there was a gender bias against him.

This ruling refuses to dismiss the case, as Washington and Lee had made a motion to do. It means that the case can proceed and could go to trial. You can read the whole grisly tale as set forth in the ruling.

The judge does take note of the ways in which the accused appears to have been hampered in defending himself, including this:

When Plaintiff asked if he could consult a lawyer,[W&L’s Title IX Officer, Lauren ] Kozak replied, "a lawyer can't help you here. We won't talk to them."


The three other reversals cited in the SAVE email were on a accusations at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, the University of Southern California, and at the University of California-San Diego (I already have blogged on this case–see "Ruling in Rape Case May Bolster Due Process Rights").

Rape is a heinous crime. What are college tribunals doing handling these crimes anyway? These accusations should be turned over to the police who have more experience investigating crime than Dean So and So, ever how well-intended the dean may be.

While the argument against campus tribunals is usually framed in terms of maintaining due process for the accused, Examiner columnist Ashe Schow points to another peril of the tribunal system: lack of due process might also, Schow argues, in the future help a guilty person.