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Regardless of who wins the election, campus sexual assault policy must be fair for all

In the coming days, control of the White House, both houses of Congress, and legislatures across the country will be decided at the polls. The stakes are high on a whole range of issues where Republicans and Democrats express starkly different policy preferences. 

While many issues tend to be discussed and decided primarily in partisan terms, we must all resist the urge to approach campus sexual misconduct with this mindset, or we will quickly find ourselves in a never-ending game of ping-pong, with campus sexual assault policy shifting drastically every time the White House and control of Congress changes hands.

We would all be well served by remembering that regardless of how common or rare campus sexual misconduct is, we share a legal and moral obligation to ensure that each and every case on every campus is handled with appropriate care. At the same time, whether one thinks false or otherwise inaccurate allegations are common or rare, every accused student deserves procedural protections. There can be no cutting corners on either side of this coin. Each and every alleged perpetrator and victim deserves a considered and appropriate process.

Litigation over campus handling of sexual misconduct cases demonstrates that although many campus administrators try to do the right thing, there have been many complainants let down by their institutions and too many accused students who have been railroaded. And courts, regardless of what policymakers do, are not going to allow it. 

All policies must be judged according to whether they protect the interests of all parties. FIRE believes that the Department of Education’s new Title IX regulations, while perhaps imperfect, measure well against this standard. Others disagree. If we hope to avoid a revolving door on Title IX-related policies, both camps should engage in ongoing dialogue to analyze what is working and where there is room for improvement, whether those currently occupying the seats of power view the issue from our perspective or not. 

FIRE is always eager to connect with advocates and policymakers trying to make sensible campus sexual assault policy, especially those who might disagree with us. We extend this invitation to open-minded advocates and policymakers who share our belief that through the process of hearing each other out, we can bridge some of our divides and make campuses safer, fairer places for all.

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