Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Backlash against the Safe Campus Act: Naysayers insist it makes women less safe, but it actually makes women safer

Last week, we explained that the proposed Safe Campus Act--a law that would afford college men accused of sexual assault due process rights--has come under attack. Now the Huffington Post's Tyler Kingkade has chimed in. Kindkade can't hide his dislike for the proposed law. While ostensibly presenting "both" sides of the issue, his treatment is heavily tilted in favor of the side that doesn't like the proposed law.

Chief among the "grave reservations" Kingkade references is the provision that says a college's disciplinary machinery for alleged sexual assault can't be activated unless the accuser allows the school to report the alleged violation to law enforcement. The very headline of Mr. Kingkade's article is "Fraternity Groups Push Bills To Limit College Rape Investigations," and he quotes someone who posits that "colleges and universities would have grave reservations about any legislation that would limit our ability to ensure a safe campus."

The notion that involving professional law enforcement makes college campuses less safe than the current broken system--where "justice" is meted out by politicized, poorly trained, amateur disciplinary panels--is grossly deceptive and irresponsible. The present system does not keep women safe from rapists. Booting an alleged rapist off campus isn't going to stop him from slipping back onto campus if he wants to, or, more likely, from legally frequenting the same off-campus hangouts where he might have committed the very misdeed that got him expelled. If we were truly serious about protecting women from the purported epidemic of rape, we would insist that every report be turned over to the professionals in law enforcement who can actually protect women by removing rapists from society.

But the worst part about Mr. Kingkade's article is his refusal to acknowledge that the current system, in all its Star Chamber ramifications, enhances the likelihood that innocent young men are being punished for offenses they didn't commit. Kingkade writes: "The Safe and Fair Campus Acts could allow schools to set a much higher standard in these proceedings, potentially making it more difficult to punish offenders."

But Kingkade doesn't bother to mention the other side of the coin--that the much lower standard now mandated by the Department of Education potentially makes it easier to punish innocent men.  That fact is either lost on Kingkade, or he is blithely unconcerned about the possibility of punishing innocent young men.

The world is topsy turvy. On this one issue, the otherwise progressive Huffington Post allies itself with law and order conservatives who typically have fought the expansion of individual due process rights at every turn. It does this because the group whose due process rights are at issue is young college men--a group that few people, aside from the young men's families, is concerned about.

Aside from putting innocent men at risk, the anti-due process crowd does no favors for survivors of sexual violence. A system so obviously in need of repair undermines the public's confidence in the results it reaches. When it's widely, and correctly, believed that students accused of sexual violence aren't being treated fairly, triers of fact on disciplinary boards may become all the more wary about punishing even those who deserve to be punished, compounding the injustices. That's not good for anyone.

Do these folks really want to keep women safe, or are they just parroting the talking points of the sexual grievance industry that justifies its existence by claiming women aren't safe?