A White House task force’s report made some startling errors about campus sexual assault rates, and proposed recommendations that endanger students’ constitutional rights, according to civil libertarians.
The report, which was authored by the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault, leads with the bizarre and wholly false claim that 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while at college. The statistic, originally reported in a Centers for Disease Control report several years ago, is at odds with most other data relating to violent crimes, and has been repeatedly debunked by criminologists.
“The agency’s figures are wildly at odds with the official crime statistics,” said Christina Hoff Summers, a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, in a video statement.
Violent crime has plummeted in the last 20 years. If the CDC’s estimates were true, U.S. college campuses would be astronomically less safe than the most dangerous, crime-ridden areas of major cities.
“Since there are more than 12 million women now on campus, that would mean that up to 2.4 million of them either have been raped on campus, or will be before leaving,” wrote author KC Johnson at Minding the Campus. “So the White house is saying that the nation confronts a public safety problem of enormous proportions: a higher rate of violent crime (sexual assault is, of course, a violent crime) than the most dangerous urban areas in the country.”
The scale of the problem is just the report’s first error. It also outlines several ways to address sexual assault that would threaten the civil liberties of students accused of sexual assault.
The report specifically instructs universities to abridge students’ due process by denying them the right to confront their accusers.
“The parties should not be allowed to personally cross-examine each other,” said the report.
The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, however, explicitly grants this right in normal criminal proceedings. Campus judicial proceedings should do no less, wrote Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
“Due process is more than a system for protecting the rights of the accused; it’s a set of procedures intended to ensure that findings of guilt or innocence are accurate, fair, and reliable,” wrote Lukianoff in a statement to The Daily Caller.
Of course, the task force seems keen to eliminate the meager protections for falsely accused students altogether. One of its more dangerous proposals would empower universities to choose a single administrator to investigate the case, adjudicate it and choose a suitable punishment. There would no trial and no recognition of due process rights at all. The report heaps mountains of praise on institutions that already use such a model.
The report is the first formal product of the task force, which was convened by President Obama in January and has been gathering input from administrators, lawyers and other relevant parties ever since. The federal government has launched notalone.gov, a resource for victims of sexual assault, and has made a 60-second PSA that will air in movie theaters beginning in May.
While the task force’s work is far from complete, its current recommendations indicate that university administrators should feel encouraged–or even compelled–to wave away constitutional protections for their students.
“By lowering the bar for finding guilt, expanding the definition of harassment beyond recognition, eliminating precious due process protections, and entrusting unqualified campus employees to safeguard the vitally important interests of all involved, we are creating a system that is impossible for colleges to fairly administer, and one that will be even less fair, reliable, and accurate than before,” wrote Lukianoff.