A growing chorus of observers is casting doubt on the campus disciplinary process mandated by Title IX for dealing with sexual-assault claims, in the wake of the University of Virginia gang-rape scandal.
Slate‘s legal analyst ripped the system earlier this week, feminist lawyer Judith Shulevitz wrote in a prominent liberal magazine that the system encourages students to see rape as a “campus infraction,” and a trustees group is saying the scandal shows that “colleges are unable to handle the outrageous crime of sexual assault on their own.”
Writing in The New Republic, Shulevitz says of the rape victim:
Should she have gone to the police? Of course! Did her friends give new meaning to the word selfish? Absolutely. Should the university have called the police the minute they heard her story? Definitely. Is UVA a school that failed to respond to the nasty sexual consequences of its Greek party scene? Apparently. But there’s one more party to hold accountable: the federal government [by way of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights]. …
In those orientation sessions, [colleges] should be teaching students to see sexual felonies as felonies—not as violations of campus policy, but as crimes to be reported as soon as possible to police officers trained to investigate them so that prosecutors can prosecute them.
Not all these reforms are hard:
A body of research on regular female police officers shows that not only to women prefer to report rape to them, they’re better at eliciting painful details from victims, which leads to higher rates of conviction. There is no reason that university officials couldn’t be working to help their local police departments make reforms like these.
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni says:
The fact that Charlottesville Chief of Police Timothy Longo said he hadn’t previously spoken in front of the Board of Visitors shows that an essential element has been left out of the conversation. If UVA is to move forward, it has to remedy the communications breakdown among students, administrators, and law enforcement. The Board of Visitors now has an opportunity to show leadership and to prove that the safety and security of the students—not reputation or image—is paramount at UVA. The alcohol-fueled party culture in Charlottesville and around the country that provides a matrix for sexual assault must also end. It’s time for trustees to exercise their duty as fiduciaries and insist that their schools maintain the safe, academically-focused environment that students and taxpayers deserve.
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