Monday, April 9, 2012

COTWA reprints letter from Daily Tar Heel (UNC student newspaper)

UNC sexual assault policy threatens falsely accused

By Letter to the Editor
Updated: 04/04/12 11:50pm
I was glad to see, in Tuesday’s article “Sexual assault rules in limbo,” that the remarkable overhaul of the justice process for sexual assaults is not going unnoticed.

However, the new standard of evidence to be used in sexual assault cases is disturbing. For criminal trials serious and trivial, we are afforded a hearing “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

Yet on this campus, any person suspected of committing sexual assault is stripped of his or her rights and brought before a panel which will consider “a preponderance of evidence”.

This, as Dean Sauls said, is “more than just writing a policy,” and it certainly ought not to be passed off as “aspirational,” for there are real, potentially disastrous consequences to be considered.

We must look no further than the case of Caleb Warner at the University of North Dakota to see the problems associated with this policy.

According to reports, Warner was accused of sexual assault, but his accuser was later suspected of lying by the police. However, despite the questions surrounding the claims, Warner was found guilty under this “preponderance of evidence” standard. After more than a year, UND finally admitted its mistake and reversed the ruling.

The “Dear Colleague” letter is not binding policy. Let UNC be progressive in upholding the rights of all students, not just victims of sexual assault.

We should never have to see a case like Caleb Warner’s here in North Carolina: the rights of sexual assault survivors can be protected without risking the same mistakes that ruin the lives of the falsely accused.

David Adler ’15
Computer science