Politico’s Morning Education newsletter, a bastion of leftist views on the education industry has been particularly focused on higher education of late. Among their recent complaints have been frequent alarmed reaction to the Trump Administration’s effort to reign in the over-reaching practices of the Obama Administration when it comes to federal mandates that hamper education which is clearly a field that should be managed within each state. There is, after all, not one word about “education” within the specific duties assigned to the federal government under our Constitution.
Despite that fact, Politico expressed the opinion this week that the Education Department’s recent decision regarding Title IX actions regarding sexual assault and harassment on college campuses weakens the protections provided to victims of such offenses from what they were under President Obama’s overbearing Education Department.
There is not one state in this country that does not have a variety of criminal statutes regarding sexual assault and every state maintains rules and regulations regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. These statutes and regulations have serious penalties both criminal and civil attached to them which are clearly capable of deterring such conduct anywhere within the state having jurisdiction over the offense.
Unfortunately, these statutes are seldom invoked in the case of alleged offenses committed within the confines of a college or university campus. Even when campus police departments are provided with police powers to make arrests and refer prosecutions to local state’s attorney offices, this seldom happens. Why, you ask? Read on…
In the cases of campus rape, assault, or harassment, the students and faculty are encouraged to report such incidents to the administration or campus police agencies. This immediately generates alarm on the part of administration because such events taking place on its campus could result in bad publicity for the university and a loss of donations and enrollment based on fear generated in the minds of parents and potential students.
Instead of conducting a thorough and objective investigation of the circumstances surrounding the reported incident, everything possible is done to contain the incident within the campus community. Students accused of such offenses are often subjected to internal “student tribunals” or “administrative hearings” which are not subject to rules of evidence, the ability to cross-examine witnesses, or the other accoutrements of due process. Often, depending on the administration’s views on such incidents, the accused must deal with a system that puts the burden of proving innocence above the presumption of innocence generally guaranteed a defendant by our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Even after undergoing such on-campus trials, an accused student can be subjected to further charges by the local prosecutor but are often spared that ordeal by being expelled from the school as a means of the school keeping things quiet. While such a system often results in the victim of a valid complaint being shortchanged on justice, it can just as often result in an alleged offender having his reputation smeared without having the opportunity to adequately defend himself as he has the right to do.
My question is very simple. Why is it necessary to burden taxpayers with the expense of sending investigators to the campuses to inquire as to whether the college is handling such complaints in a manner that is adequate when the simplest thing that could be done is to require complete transparency by requiring all colleges and universities to report all claims of sexual offenses (or for that matter, all criminal offenses) to the state police agency with jurisdiction over the campus where the offense occurred? In this way, experienced investigators who are paid to conduct inquiries into criminal offenses can interview the victim, witnesses and the accused using appropriately constitutional safeguards for everyone’s rights. Based on these actions, investigators can reach a conclusion and recommendation for the state’s attorney regarding either prosecution or grand jury action.
If we are ever to get a handle on what seems to be a mounting problem of sexual assault/harassment on campus, it is time the get the issue out in the open and out from under the blanket of secrecy that is being imposed on such events by the campus administrations across the country. Nobody likes their laundry aired in the public square, but if the campus is being operated in a manner that attempts to keep students safe, and policies clearly delineate the responsibilities of all concerned, they should have nothing to hide. It is no more right to deny the victim their day in court than to deny the accused a full and professional investigation.
Only after the state in which the campus resides fails to properly address events occurring with its jurisdiction should any steps be taken to invite the heavy hand of the federal government onto the premises. We’d all be safer for this effort.
Oh, yes. Nothing herein should be construed as diminishing the seriousness of sexual assault or harassment, not should anything herein suggest that I would choose to disbelieve a victim. All I am suggesting is that an objective and professional balance be maintained until all the evidence has been properly examined, all witnesses have been interviewed, and all the facts have come to light. We owe it to all parties involved.