Monday, August 05, 2013
As a reader of TheShadow University shortly after it was published, I understood well the due process difficulties in campus judicial systems. But until the lacrosse case, I simply assumed that because sexual assault is a crime, such matters were handled by police, not by a campus judiciary. In any event, how campuses handled sexual assault complaints couldn’t be more troubling than the manner in which they handled other allegations.
That, obviously, isn’t the case. One of the most troubling counterfactuals of the lacrosse case is to wonder what might have occurred if Crystal Mangum had simultaneously filed a complaint through the Duke campus judicial process. If—and it’s not entirely clear—she had standing to have done so, there’s little doubt that a finding of guilty would have occurred. Procedurally, the accused students would have lacked the right to attorneys, been unable to access the critical DNA evidence, and would have faced severe evidentiary and time restrictions in presenting their case. Ideologically, the accused students would have been operating in an environment heavily influenced by the Group of 88 and their race/class/gender agenda. For a less explosive example, consider the case of Caleb Warner, a former University of North Dakota student whose school found him guilty of sexual assault—even as the local police filed charges against his accuser for filing a false police report.
(As an aside, note that the police saying the accuser was lying wasn’t enough for the AP to identify the accuser, since “AP’s policy is not to identify alleged sexual assault victims,” even those the police have formally concluded made a false allegation.)
The basic unfairness of campus sexual assault procedures was intensified by the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter, about which I’ve written extensively at Minding the Campus, which dramatically lowered the burden of proof in campus sexual assault cases.
In the last two months, however, two students convicted under their school’s wildly biased procedures filed suits in federal court. One lawsuit targeted Vassar College, which handles sexual assault claims through an “Interpersonal Violence Panel” whose procedures the college refuses to make publicly available. The second suit targeted St. Joseph’s University, after a process that appeared to ignore exculpatory text messages sent from the accuser to the student she accused. You can read my Vassar post here, and my St. Joe’s post here.
In the aftermath of the “Dear Colleague” letter, and with administrators responsive to their school’s version of the Group of 88, it’s all but inconceivable to imagine many, or any, residential colleges restoring due process on their own. In the end, only intervention by federal courts—as occurred a generation ago with speech codes—will bring a measure of due process to how campuses handle allegations of sexual assaults.
Former NCCU chancellor Julius Chambers recently passed away. The most comprehensive obituary came in the Charlotte Observer, which recounted his myriad contributions to the causes of civil rights and due process over the course of his career.
Obituaries, obviously, tend to stress the positive in a career, and it’s hard to find any positive in Chambers’ conduct in the lacrosse case, where he teamed with William Bowen to pen a whitewash report that supposedly represented a critical analysis of how the administration responded to the case. Yet the report didn’t even address the issues that ultimately would cost Duke millions of dollars in legal fees and settlements, largely because Bowen and Chambers operated under an ill-concealed assumptions that the rape allegations were likely true. The Observer didn’t reference Chambers’ conduct in the lacrosse case, which contradicted his career-long support for civil rights and due process.
The Supreme Court has requested a formal response from Durham to the longshot appeal in the McFadyen case. While this move means the appeal hasn’t been rejected out of hand, the question doesn’t seem to be the type that’s likely to generate interest from the Court.