With all the focus on campus “rape culture,” those accused of sexual assault (read: men) often find themselves facing a byzantine, parallel system of justice in which standards of evidence and proof are dubious and the process seems stacked against them from the outset. Increasingly, these cases are being taken to real courts where the accused men are winning back the rights which were not protected by their universities.
“Once you are accused, you’re guilty,” Boston University student Parker Oaks tells National Public Radio. Another BU student, Xavier Adsera, tells NPR, “We used to not be fair to women on this issue. Now we’re on the other extreme, not being fair to guys.”
A student from the University of California, San Diego has a similar observation about how the pendulum has shifted. He tells NPR, “Schools are overcorrecting.” The student is not named by NPR, but he does tell them his story. After he was accused of sexual assault by a woman on campus, he was suspended. The accused denied any non-consensual incident and points to text messages showing the relationship continued, i.e. parties, studying, hanging out, on a friendly basis for months after the alleged assault. But UCSD never let the accused student present any of that evidence.
Rather than slink away, the accused student sued UCSD and eventually won. The court’s decision states, “after reviewing the Administrative Record, the Court finds that in this particularly case, the hearing against petitioner was unfair.” There were multiple reasons given for this, including the accused’s inability to confront his accuser; the fact that his questions about the texts and emails were not asked; the fact that other evidence used to justify his punishment was barely mentioned in the hearing, giving him no chance to dispute it; and the fact that his punishment was increased without explanation after he appealed the decision.
The accused student was elated at the decision in his favor, telling NPR, “It kind of took some balls for a judge to come out and make the decision that they made, because every single point that we raised about unfairness and lack of evidence, the judge agreed with.”
And as NPR notes, the UCSD case is only one of many more to come, “Some 50 challenges lodged by accused students are now in the pipeline; that’s up from about a dozen just two years ago.”
There are currently two bills being considered by Congress which would require due process be protected for those accused of sexual assault. Joe Cohn of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education tells NPR, “We are a ways away from reaching the kind of equilibrium that will provide fundamental fairness to everyone involved.”
Cohn points to a recent congressional hearing during which Democratic Rep. Jared Polis said, “If 10 people are accused and under reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all 10 people.” Polis later backtracked on that statement, admitting he had made a gaffe and “went too far.”