Rape is a horrible crime that should be punished with maximum penalties. Rapists are lowlife thugs who prey on vulnerable women. Violent sexual assault should be investigated by police and prosecuted by the District Attorney of the municipal jurisdiction in which the crime took place.
In April of 2011, a letter from the Obama Department of Education to university administrators resulted in a spate of railroaded college trials for students. Universities took it upon themselves to conduct hearings rather than address crime as a criminal matter with due process and evidentiary rules.
This letter deemed ‘any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature including verbal comments would be considered a violation. Housed as guidance on Title IX, this letter had the force of regulation in the conduct of these schools. These cases were tried in administrative Kangaroo courts without proper representation or testimony. Universities began taking on the responsibility to conduct hearings without complete investigations. Many allegations of sexual misconduct were considered even when the victim declined to participate in the case.
Rape culture is a sociological theory where rape is pervasive and normalized. In 2014, Vox detailed how rape culture is authentic and a threat to many college students. During her time at Columbia University, Emma Sulkowicz claims to have been raped. She carried a mattress as a visual example of her shame and the lack of action by the university.
Buzzfeed reported in 2010 and college cases were open for an average of 289 days. But in 2016, that jumped to 963 days, over three times longer and lasting well into the third year of a student’s college experience. If a student were convicted of a crime or even a lesser charge of violating the student handbook, the university could expel them. But, dragging them through the mud for well over two years is excessive.
Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, issued new Title IX guidance to curtail these mistrials and reform the evidentiary and judicial process at universities.
Joe Biden has nominated Catherine Lhamon for the Education Department as Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights. She occupied the same position under President Obama in 2016 and enforced the Title IX guidance through more “Dear Colleague” letters. Maybe these should have been called Dear Comrade. If nothing else, this demonstrates that Biden policies and personnel, which are the implementation of policy, are a clear continuation of Obama’s misdeeds.
Lhamon will continue her policy that was criticized by non-other than the notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) “for not giving the accused person a fair opportunity to be heard.” It is a simple requirement for most cases. Instead of providing due process and respecting the rights of the accused, she will have schools deny cross-examinations which often assumes guilt. Using the standard of a “preponderance of the evidence” instead of “beyond a reasonable doubt” leaves open the weight of specific evidence and exclusion of exculpatory evidence. In addition, broadening the definition of sexual violence to “rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion” can create an umbrella term for various actions that fall into the same category. Without proper distinctions, a catcall could be treated the same as violating another person. It will not prevent rape culture or improve colleges.