by Bob Kellogg
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is concerned about how passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act may endanger student rights.
The bill would authorize creation of a National Center for Campus Public Safety. FIRE executive vice-president Robert Shibley says such a center would not only be costly for taxpayers, but should also concern students, faculty, and campus rights advocates.
“We talk about it as being an artifact of the surveillance university,” he says. “This idea [says] that if you get angry and slam the door or if you’re engaging in whatever they would consider to be unconstructive debate, [that] gets you an entry in some sort of database on campus [that is then used] to determine whether or not they think you’re a threat who ought to be watched.”
He says FIRE also is concerned about the current version of the act, which would introduce double jeopardy for those accused of sexual misconduct. “You could actually be found not guilty of sexual harassment on campus — and then in the appeal, your accuser can appeal and get you tried all over again,” he explains.
Shibley says FIRE is continuing efforts to urge legislators on both sides of the aisle to cut the provision that would establish double jeopardy and to eliminate the National Center for Campus Public Safety.
Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is currently stalled in Congress, a victim of political bickering as both houses refuse even to consider the versions passed by the other.