When Should a University Reopen a Sexual Assault Case?

By March 14, 2011

The Grand Forks (ND) Herald ran an editorial last week discussing the case of former student Caleb Warner, who was expelled from the University of North Dakota (UND) after a college tribunal found him guilty of charges stemming from an alleged sexual assault.

Notice the word "alleged." The twist in this case is that his accuser is now wanted by the Grand Forks police on charges of filing a false police report with regard to the case. The police have even issued an arrest warrant for her; apparently, she has returned to her home state of California and has so far failed to return to face the charges. Warner, for his part, has always insisted that the sex was consensual. Despite this, UND has reportedly refused to reopen Warner’s case, apparently on the grounds that this turn of events is not sufficiently "substantial" to warrant reopening the case.

The Grand Forks Herald opines that "UND should consider reopening the case." In other words, UND should think about revisiting its original verdict. I’m going to go further than that and agree with FIRE Co-founder Harvey Silverglate, who said, "It seems to be that the campus tribunal has an obligationsurely moral and ethical and arguably constitutional as wellto reopen the case to examine the basis for the criminal justice’s system of filing a false statement."

I am trying to think of a legitimate reason not to reopen the case and am stumped. If the police not only determine that an accused person is not guilty of sexual assault, but also charge the accuser with filing a false report, it seems to me that the universitywhich hardly has the same investigative tools as the police and court systemwould be well-advised to take a second look to check if something went wrong.

What exactly is UND waiting for? If this isn’t "substantial" enough reason to revisit a verdict, is anything?

Schools: University of North Dakota