In response to negative mainstream media coverage of new rules from the Department of Education that would provide college students accused of sexual assault basic fairness and due process, an organization that works to end domestic violence and sexual assault has organized a letter of support for the new rules.
Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) has been one of the leading voices working to get basic constitutional rights in campus tribunals, and released a statement in support of granting such right to college and university students. The statement said that “fair and non-biased disciplinary proceedings are essential for the investigation and adjudication of sexual misconduct allegations on college campuses.” It also said “investigations that are balanced, objective, and fair are an essential element of due process” and “both complainants and the accused benefit from an even-handed and transparent process that guarantees procedural due process.”
The statement then notes that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spoken in support of due process for students, as have law professors from Harvard University, Penn Law, Cornell University, and others.
A survey from the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy, conducted by YouGov earlier this year, found that Americans still believe in due process even after a sustained media campaign against it when it comes to male college students, celebrities, and even Supreme Court nominees accused of sexual assault. Results from the study showed that high levels of Americans — whether Republican, Independent, or Democrat — support due process and what goes with it, such as the right to cross-examine one’s accuser.
Eighty-one percent of those polled said that those accused should have the right to be informed of the charges against them (current campus policies do not support this right in many cases), 61% believe the accused should be able to cross-examine their accusers (the Obama administration actively discouraged this), and 67% said students accused of crimes on campus should have the same legal protections as they would in a court of law.
Among the signers are Harvard Law professors Elizabeth Bartholet and Alan Dershowitz, along with others who signed the original Harvard Law letter. The statement also includes the signature of Cynthia Garrett, an attorney who co-created Families Advocating for Campus Equality (FACE), a group that helps parents connect with others going through the pain of a false accusation.
Several lawmakers have also signed the letter, including Republican Frank V. Sapareto, vice chair of the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
In addition to lawmakers, attorneys, and law professors, the letter also contains signatures from other scholars and even a retired NASA scientist.
The new proposed rules from the Education Department are now up for comment before becoming official. When the Obama administration created new campus sexual assault rules, it did not follow proper procedure by allowing experts and the public to comment on the rules before they were mandated. Following these procedures will give the new rules extra heft, and will hopefully stop the moral panic surrounding sex on college campuses.