“Revising” Title IX Sexual Assault Regulations—Attacks on Due Process are Just the Beginning

Attacking the due process rights of college students accused of sexual offenses violating Title IX is among Joe Biden’s top priorities. Anti-due process activists are pushing him further down this path. But that’s not all. They’re also using the issue to promote potentially massive spending and to attack religious freedom. The scope of their goals was revealed during a May 25 online Town Hall, sponsored by Every Voice Coalition, It’s On Us, Know Your IX and End Rape on Campus.

During an introductory presentation, Knox Your Title IX manager Sage Carson made two proposals inimical to due process. One called for reducing police involvement in college sexual assault cases. This would marginalize those best trained to impartially assess evidence. Investigations would be conducted by college administrators, who lack forensic expertise. That’s bad enough when they’re open minded about the veracity of accusations. Prejudiced by ideology, many take a “guilty until proven innocent” approach.

Carson also proposed a broader definition of sexual harassment than “severe, pervasive and objectively offensive.” Her tone was particularly hostile to the criteria of “objectively.” But that is the most important of the three. Without it students can’t know what is forbidden. Without it reasonable behaviors would be prohibited whenever others are subjectively uncomfortable. The Town Hall’s organizers seem to want this. The event had extensive procedures to assure nobody would be “offended.” Participants needed to ask the others for permission to address their topics. A single objection would put a topic off limits. One person’s “discomfort” would exclude discussion of any idea that might reduce rape. This at an event supposedly devoted to that goal. Such unhealthy sensitivity can construe almost anything as harassment. Policies catering to these attitudes make life unlivable for normal people. They are also grounded in the erroneous assumption that human psychology tends to be fragile rather than resilient.

That same assumption grounds Carson’s desire to legally mandate an open ended array of “academic accommodations” and “support services.” These include: 1) “Prohibiting schools from requiring students to pay to retake the same course if they had to leave because of violence.” 2) Increased opportunities for taking tests outside class sessions. 3) “Anger management for all survivors.” Mandating some accommodations and services might be reasonable—if joined to strict standards of what necessitates them. Those standards must presume psychological resilience. They cannot apply to students refusing to pull themselves together weeks or months after an incident. And they cannot apply to students who tolerated unwanted sexual acts as the path of least resistance.

Such restrictions would not impede benefits in cases of true need. They would prevent innumerable students becoming eligible for unnecessary benefits. And this would prevent an explosion of colleges’ expenses—which could only be paid through increased tuition or taxation.

Carson’s last major suggestion concerned religious schools. Two policies common at these are pertinent: 1) Single sex dormitories, with visits by the other sex prohibited or strictly regulated. 2) Prohibitions of alcoholic inebriation. Sexual assault is more common when such policies are violated. Victims’ violations of them can enable assaults. Carson would legally prohibit punishment of victims’ violations in these cases. This would not just infringe on religious freedom. Students often formally agree to observe school policies. They can avoid punishment by keeping their agreement. Carson would allow freely accepted “contracts” to be violated with impunity.

The policies Carson attacks actually reduce the danger of sexual violence. Rape is less common among sober students whose interactions with the opposite sex are at least quasi-public. Misunderstandings that lead both to rape and to false allegations are less common when all adhere to the same sexual standards. If the organizers of the Town Hall really wanted to minimize rape they would treat religious schools as allies. But that is not their goal. Their goal is to minimize rape in the context of “liberated lifestyles” that increase its likelihood.

Those seriously interested in reducing rape, aiding victims and punishing offenders will need to think along very different lines. Useful ideas include the following:

A) Mandating increased police participation in college rape cases. This would increase the chances both of real offenders being caught and of the falsely accused being exonerated.

B) Mandating that students be taught what behaviors, “lifestyles” and circumstances put them at increased risk. They must also be taught their own responsibility to avoid risky behaviors.

C) Mandating reduction or elimination of external conditions that facilitate rape. Single sex dormitories would have real value. They make private interaction between the sexes more deliberate. This increases the likelihood either of sex being consensual or of rape victims having freely chosen danger.

D) Any mandates for “academic accommodations” and “support services” must have precise, strict standards as to who qualifies. Retaking a class without charge must have the most serious of justifications. Examples include victims who are physically incapacitated or in a psychological institute’s residential program.
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