A shocking plan: allow the police to handle campus sexual assault cases

Hats off to the WaPo for running a shocking (!) editorial penned by Cleta Mitchell and Trent Lott which deals with the ever present media theme of the college campus sexual assault epidemic. Rather than focusing on questions of privacy and making people “feel comfortable” while ignoring the rights of defendants and the constitutional process for dealing with crime, the authors put forth a bold proposition: when a serious crime is alleged, how about letting the police and the courts deal with it?

As the 2015 freshmen class navigates their first semester, sexual assault at our nation’s colleges and universities remains a topic of serious concern. The current system of investigating and adjudicating allegations of sexual assault on campus is broken. It does not serve the interests of students, schools or the public.

A recent poll by Penn Schoen Berland found that over 90 percent of likely voters believe that law enforcement — not colleges and universities — should be responsible for investigating and prosecuting allegations of sexual assault on campus. It is time to bring justice to campus, protect the rights of all students and student organizations, punish perpetrators and ensure a safe college experience for students.

Today, colleges and universities are frequently required to investigate and judge reported crimes of sexual violence without first involving law enforcement. Because schools do not possess the investigative and forensic capabilities of law enforcement, or the due process protections of the criminal justice system, this results in a deeply flawed process that is less capable of stopping and punishing perpetrators and more likely to violate the basic due-process rights of those involved.

I’m sure that a flood of complaints from the Social Justice Warriors are already being hunted and pecked on keyboards around the nation, but the basic premise here is one which we’ve endorsed at Hot Air for quite a while now. How this remains controversial is a mystery to me. We don’t need to delve yet again into the laundry list of high profile cases of real or perceived rape cases on college campuses which have been kept “in house” by administrative kangaroo courts leading to all manner of legal and personal disasters.

In cases where a rape or other actual sexual assault has taken place, not only are school administrators under-equipped to deal with it, but they lack the most fundamental training in basic criminal investigation techniques. True, they might be great at providing counseling and emotional support for victims, but that doesn’t get the job done in terms of correctly identifying a suspect and securing the evidence to obtain a conviction. Even in cases where they might manage the feat, the maximum punishment which they can inflict is to kick the perpetrator out of school.

On the other side of the coin is the danger of accusing the wrong person. (Or group of people in the case of fraternities.) The accused is entitled to a robust legal defense which is often completely absent in these bogus tribunals. You’d probably stand a better chance of going on trial in North Korea for something you didn’t actually do than to go before some group of university professors and administrators to plead your case. And if you are found “guilty” under such circumstances your life can be completely ruined without ever having had the benefit of being heard by a jury of your peers.

As is noted in their editorial, there is a fundamental quetion to be asked of our nation’s colleges here: would you allow these in-house kangaroo courts to handle a murder trial? How about a mugging or case of identity theft? Do you honestly think the school can tackle crimes like those? Then why in the world would you shut out the police if someone claims to have been raped?