The U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights announced on Friday that it had reached a settlement with the University of Notre Dame about its handling of sexual-harassment cases. The deal is the first public step the office has taken in such matters since its "Dear Colleague" letter in April outlined how colleges should respond to allegations of sexual assault.
Robb Jones, senior vice president and general counsel for claims management at United Educators Insurance, a major insurer of colleges, says the department's investigation of Notre Dame is a significant first sign of how the letter will be applied: "cookbook style," he says, without much flexibility in evaluating colleges' policies.
In the voluntary settlement, the university agreed to better publicize how students can file complaints of sexual harassment, and the "preponderance of evidence" standard it uses to evaluate those allegations.
Campus officials must conclude their investigations of sexual-assault allegations within 60 days of receiving a complaint and must extend the right to appeal a decision to complainants. Currently only accused students can appeal.
Notre Dame also will accommodate complainants who do not want to be in the same room with their alleged assailants during disciplinary hearings.
"Disciplinary hearings". Is that what they're now calling kangaroo courts for alleged rapists? Let me see if I understand these "disciplinary hearings" correctly. We'll accuse someone of rape, set a lower standard of proof than would exist in a courtroom, and if the person (presumably always male) is found not to have committed the assault, the accuser can appeal that finding--without ever having to face the accused.
How can any reasonable person think this is OK? What the heck is going through these people's minds? Did we learn nothing from the Duke lacrosse scandal?
Update, 7/15/11: FIRE, which I haven't written about in awhile, shows us the inevitable result of such rules:
In a stark demonstration of the failure of campus judicial procedures, the University of North Dakota (UND) has found a student guilty of sexual assault despite the fact that local police refused to charge him with a crime and instead charged his accuser for lying about the incident. Former student Caleb Warner has been banned by UND from stepping foot on any state public campus for three years. Meanwhile, his accuser has been wanted by the Grand Forks Sheriff's Department for more than a year on the charge of making a false report to law enforcement. Warner has turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) to help remedy this injustice.
Update, 7/18/11: The Cato Institute agrees with me.