A University of North Dakota student faced sexual assault allegations after a January 2010 incident. According to a U.S. News report, law enforcement refused to bring charges against the young man and instead charged the person’s accuser with filing a false report. Despite the findings of the law enforcement’s investigation, the school’s tribunal suspended the young man and handed down a three-year ban from the campus. The student repeatedly requested that the university review its decision, which it finally did after a year and a half and determined that their ruling was unsubstantiated.
At schools in Minnesota and across the country, students accused of committing a crime face the ruling of an often ill-equipped campus judiciary that can hand down punishments with lifelong repercussions.
How campus tribunals work
A June 2014 Lost Angeles Times report notes that more often than not, a campus judiciary uses just one investigator who looks into the complaint. Then, unlike a criminal trial, a panel of people determines the fate of the person accused of sexual assault often based solely on a preponderance of evidence as opposed to clear and convincing proof.
To complicate matters, The Witherspoon Institute reports that many universities, such as Columbia University, Duke University and Stanford University, broadly define sexual assault to include generalities such as sex after the consumption of alcohol. The Los Angeles Times report points out that a number of the young men who were suspended or expelled after campus judiciaries at these universities found them guilty of assault are now filing suit. The students claim that their rights to a fair hearing were violated. In one instance, a young man faced a panel of three people who were all friends of the accuser’s father.
When a college finds a student guilty of sexual assault or misconduct, the resulting punishments can have lasting effects that include the following:
- Expulsion from school
- Banishment from campus
- A tarnished reputation
Perhaps the most serious consequence is that a student’s permanent record will reflect that he or she was found guilty of sexual assault. That can limit someone’s opportunities for housing, education and employment. Without a fair hearing, students lack the opportunity to properly defend themselves and protect their futures.
Someone who is accused of a crime as serious as a sexual misconduct deserves the right to due process. Campus judiciaries often lack the expertise to determine someone’s guilt and deliver punishments that should be reserved for those who are convicted of criminal charges. Anyone with questions regarding sexual assault on college campuses should consult with a defense attorney.