Since 2011, the federal government has required all universities that receive federal money to provide “training or experience in handling complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence” to adjudicators and investigators. Since nothing in the experience of most academics prepares them to competently investigate an offense that’s a felony in all 50 states, it makes sense to train those who are assigned to investigate campus sexual-assault allegations. But the ideological regimes used on many campuses are designed more to stack the deck against accused students than to ensure a fair inquiry. The risk of injustice is enhanced by the fact that, to the best of our knowledge, no school discloses the contents of its training materials to accused students before commencing the disciplinary process. The contrast between this training regime and the instructions given by judges to jurors in criminal trials—most obviously, that they should presume defendants innocent until proven guilty—is stark.
“In a criminal trial,” says former Baltimore state’s attorney Gregg L. Bernstein, “we ask jurors to use their common sense and apply their own life experiences to determining questions of credibility and guilt or innocence. We do not ‘train’ jurors at the expense of considering equally plausible factors as to why [an alleged] victim’s testimony might not be credible.” Bernstein, who during his term in office created a special unit to handle sexual-assault cases, believes a balance “can be struck in which the victim’s account is given credence and she is respected, while at the same time, the alleged assailant has the right to test the story. We should ask for no less when a person’s reputation can be altered for life by these types of [campus] allegations.”