Recently the State of Georgia introduced legislation that could actually challenge parts of the Title IX law. Under current law, a college or university student could use Title IX to bring a criminal investigation for an alleged sex offense against another student without notifying law enforcement. Presently a victim can make a choice to tell campus administrators, police, or both if a sexual assault or rape has occurred. What Georgia has introduced is House Bill 51 (HB 51) that would require a victim to immediately report an allegation to police and not to campus administrators. The bill that could be made into law would sidestep campus administrators and student conduct boards altogether by providing a thorough criminal investigation.
First, I support Title IX as a law that provides equality in school and university athletics programs. However, I cannot support a mission creep clause that allows victims of alleged sexual assaults to sidestep police that is equipped to investigate felonious crimes. No campus administrator should be in hindering an alleged criminal process. When school leadership interferes with criminal cases, then it has a similar smell of the infamous Duke Lacrosse scandal or the Virginia University gang rapes that Rolling Stone magazine had to resend due to the fact it never happened.
Title IX is a bad law that eliminates due processes of the accused instituting a “he said she said” determination. There are no other administrative processes in the military, private sector, or municipalities that would extend such an offer of choices for an accusation of rape or sexual assault. Title IX sexual conduct reporting is only applicable to higher learning institutions. Another reason why it is dangerous is that an accused could be erroneously listed as a sexual offender by the school but not on a sex offender registry. That’s right. Because the campus utilizes FERPA and other privacy concerned processes a false allegation or inadequate investigation by university authorities would expel the accused as a sex offender but not be required to register because authorities were never notified a sexual assault that took place.
Rape is a serious accusation. The weights of justice should have a compelling timeline, physical evidence, and evidence that the act was not authorized. But to have a university administrator, a person not in a position to administratively rule on law or holds a law license should never be engaged in the efforts Title IX loosely provides. HB 51 may be what college campuses need to keep campus behaviors in line with states laws and statutes.
If you ever attended a college or university, you may have heard of student conduct or an office at the college that regulates conduct and conflict resolution. These organizations became a part of the school to mainly deal with arguments in housing, cheating in the classroom and to help reduce underage binge drinking. Over time student conduct offices have morphed into a significant oversight from criminal charges to mental health regulatory affairs. This is where I think there should be a line drawn for such organizations like campus student conduct.
The first problem is Title IX. Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination by sex in any federally funded education program or activity. But like any good law, there is flaws and room for critical error. Title IX allows any student to bypass law enforcement authorities to bring a claim of sexual assault to student conduct. This means that law enforcement is completely out of the picture with no investigation either in process and evidence is not professionally captured or preserved. Instead the Respondent or accused must appear before a student conduct committee, usually run by students, with no lawyers present to defend his/her accusations. This is like somewhat like calling you boss at work to claim that you were sexually assaulted at your desk. The boss will immediately inform the police, human resources, corporate security and other agencies to secure a potential crime scene. Most disturbing about campus student conduct boards is that due process is completely thrown out the window. If the board “believes” the story of the accuser then that’s all it takes to expel a student. That’s right folks, you will have an expelled labeled “sex offender” on campus that is not a sex offender because police were never called or informed about the situation. Another disturbing fact is that if the accuser loses his/her case before student conduct, then they under Title IX be charged with filing a false report. There is a small clause in the title that prohibits this because there no police report was filed. It is an internal matter controlled by inexperienced faculty with no training in law or law certified to practice in a capacity of an administrative judge.
All I can think about is the Rolling Stone article about Virginia Tech or the Duke Lacross scandal. In each of these scenarios, lives were destroyed because student conduct initially took the lead and police were either not called, or police botched the crime scene because the campus stood in the way of a proper criminal investigation. While Title IX is essential to the protections of fairness, it lacks balance when it comes to sexual violence claims. Instead, universities should immediately engage professional law enforcement authorities at the first indication of sexual assault. A band of self-appointed academics that label themselves as the morality police of student conduct should not be engaged in any serious criminal allegations.
I have no problems with student conduct providing life examples of proper social conduct on campus. But student conduct should not be involved in slapping wrists over illegal drug activity on campus while people not enrolled or living on campus experience the heavy hand of the law and police. It is nothing more than a double standard of protections and provides a level of inequality and prejudice. Student conduct should only be involved in conflict negotiations, academic cheating, and concern notifications. Student conduct should not be in the business of determining what is criminal versus its ability to pick and choose what it deems it can handle. This opens up universities to massive liabilities and loses the credibility of overall safety and the spirit of the effective due process. A campus cannot be judge, jury, and executioner. But as long as student conduct remains, then that is what it will continue to be.