A Yale University Student who was cleared of sexual assault charges in a court of law can return to his school, but faces a campus kangaroo court under activist pressure to expel him.
Saifullah Khan, an immigrant who grew up in an Afghanistan refugee camp, was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow Yale student after a night of drinking. Jurors took less than four hours to find him not guilty after viewing surveillance video showing Khan and his accuser walking arm-in-arm while smiling, which the prosecution tried to present as Khan dragging the woman.
Activists, however, do not think Khan is innocent, and think the jury only found him not guilty because media outlets widely circulated questions from defense attorneys regarding how much the accuser drank and the dress she wore the night of the incident. Jurors I spoke to previously say those questions didn’t factor into their decision at all, and that it was the video evidence that convinced them Khan was not guilty.
“He’s innocent, and the facts prove it,” alternate juror Elise Wiener told me in March. “He was acquitted because he deserved to be acquitted and the prosecutor should never have brought the case in the first place.”
But the courtroom trial means almost nothing on a college campus, where poorly trained faculty members are taught that false accusations are rare (implying they should “believe” the accuser) and that evidence of lying should be ignored. Accused students are routinely denied the ability to cross-examine or even to face their accuser, and exculpatory evidence is often ignored. Schools also don’t have the same powers as police and courts to compel evidence. The video footage that cleared Khan may not even be shown, or it may not be weighted as much as the accuser’s claims.
For Khan, and other students who have been suspended in relation to sexual misconduct — whether for a trial or as a school punishment — returning can be difficult. Activists have spread the notion that accused students are “rapists” based solely on the accusation, so any school allowing such a student back on campus can be accused of creating a hostile environment.
There’s now a petition demanding Yale not re-admit Khan, which has nearly 78,000 signatures already.
The petition makes clear that because Khan was found not guilty, the system failed. The petition leaves out key details, including the video evidence, the lack of evidence that the accuser was as drunk as she claimed, and Khan’s key card swipes in the dorms that night, which appeared to show him leaving his accuser and returning to his room, before almost immediately returning to her room (he said in court that she called him and asked why he didn’t go into her room with her). He then went to a part of the dorm where a friend of the accuser was, who she said had drank too much. This, according to Khan’s attorney, matched his story that the accuser asked him to check on her friend, showing that she was not incapacitated as activists claim.
Again, none of this matters in a campus tribunal. Khan knows his odds, but told the Yale Daily News that he still plans to return to Yale this Fall.
“Yale has let me know that the [University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct] process has been extended all the way till September for a ‘more thorough investigation,’” he wrote. “I am deciding to attend University this fall.”
Yale is currently involved in another high-profile sexual assault allegation, this one involving a former basketball captain who is suing the university for denying him due process.