Today, Inside Higher Ed‘s Allie Grasgreen reports that Duke University has eliminated the statute of limitations that previously required student allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault to be brought forth within a year of the alleged incident. This marks the second time in two years Duke has fiddled with its statute of limitations.
Prior to last year, Duke had a statute of limitations in place setting the deadline for students to bring allegations of sexual misconduct at two years from the date of the alleged incident. The university changed the statute of limitations to one year—not as a result of the April 4, 2011, "Dear Colleague" Letter—but because Duke conducted an internal look at its Title IX related policies in conjunction with an Office for Civil Rights (OCR) investigation into the university’s handling of a Title IX complaint. Duke was concerned that OCR would disapprove of the fact that while alleged victims were given two years to bring forward accusations against students, they were allowed one year to come forward with accusations against faculty members. The change to a one year statute of limitations across the board received harsh criticism on campus.
After the latest change, Duke University may now proceed on allegations of sexual misconduct against a student anytime up until the accused student graduates and the school no longer has jurisdiction over him or her.
For analysis of the impact of this change on students’ rights, Grasgreen turned to FIRE’s own Robert Shibley. Robert took the chance to explain, among other things, why having a statute of limitations is frequently an important part of due process:
"The thing to remember is that a reason to have a statute of limitations is to make sure the recollection of witnesses and whatever evidence is necessary to fairly adjudicate the incident are still available," Shibley said.
For the full story and much more from Robert, be sure to check out Inside Higher Ed!