By Greg Piper at The College Fix
Ignore the incredibly biased headline by The Oregonian on what the University of Oregon actually did with regard to sexual-misconduct investigations.
Responding to a harsh media glare more than anything else, trustees voted last week to make it even harder for students accused of rape to defend themselves and make their punishments more severe when found guilty under questionable procedures.
Students accused of rape will now have half the time to respond to accusations – just a week – and the school can now place a hold on their transcript if they withdraw before proceedings are finished, “making it difficult for them to enroll elsewhere and evade justice,” in the incredibly slanted words of reporter Richard Read (and possibly his editor).
Accused students will now be deprived of lesser sanctions – writing journals or performing community service – that might indicate a hearing panel (another feature newly scrapped) thought they were less than guilty of what most people consider “rape.” (Who would honestly let off an unequivocal rapist with writing a f—ing journal about their crime?)
And with the elimination of a six-month statute of limitations, they will now be subject to investigation for an unlimited period of time – an incentive for accusers to wreak maximum havocon students who are almost certainly in a worse position to defend themselves several months or years after the alleged assault.
Not all of the changes are bad: The Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards must now send a formal allegation to the accused student within 60 days – a process that formerly was allotted six months.
The Oregonian notes several of these provisions were already in effect temporarily but have now been approved permanently.
Perhaps the most sweeping is the removal of hearing panels from adjudicating allegations, which will now be overseen by a single “student-conduct officer.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has beaten the drum on why this “single investigator” model is a terrible idea, but schools continue to indulge in the fiction that a system with no checks and balances will reliably produce anything resembling justice.
Interestingly, some students and faculty aren’t happy about the rush to vote:
Law professor John Bonine, a member of the Senate’s permanent Committee on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, told the subcommittee the new system [overseen by the trustees] has dramatically reduced consultation, diminishing opportunities for professors, students and others to suggest and consider proposed reforms. Administrators draft last-minute changes without consulting faculty and students, he said. …
Helena Schlegel, the student member of the Board of Trustees … disagreed with removing the option of hearings panels for offenses other than sexual misconduct. She said students weren’t sufficiently consulted regarding the proposed code changes.
The changes weren’t draconian enough for a professor with no experience in criminal law:
Ibrahim Gassama, a law school professor, told members of a trustee subcommittee Wednesday that free legal advice has been offered to accused students but not always to accusers, unless the alleged perpetrators have first opted for such advice. Gassama said he spoke as an expert on international gender discrimination and violence against women, as a member of the UO Task Force on Sexual Violence and as the father of a college-age daughter.
“The specifics of the proposal treat students who are assaulted as second-class persons, putting them in a position that is subordinate to those who perpetrate assault,” Gassama said.
The Daily Emerald offers more details on the changes:
Panel hearings were also officially removed from UO’s student conduct procedures in Thursday’s decision. The hearing process involved a panel of judges who determined whether or not a student was responsible of violating the student conduct code. Hearings were removed as an option for any type of conduct violation because some professors and administrators didn’t think was appropriate to involve students in adjudicating sexual assault cases …
Helena Schlegel, the only student representative on the board [and student government president-elect], was also the only member to vote “no” on both of the changes to the student conduct code. Schlegel felt that students weren’t involved in the process of proposing those changes because the subcommittee which suggested these changes to the board didn’t meet over the last year.
“I would have preferred to keep the changes temporary so that students would have had a chance to submit their input on the proposed changes,” Schlegel said. “It was a member of administration proposing the changes.”
Doesn’t that summarize it pretty well? Schools acting in their own craven self-interest to make problems go away quickly, with due process and protections for vulnerable students be damned – sounds run of the mill in these times.
Schools: University of Oregon