Campus Life / National / Opinion & Editorial / Politics

“Due process” movement gains momentum, moves to center stage in campus sexual assault debate

WASHINGTON / September 3, 2015 – A renewed focus on due process for students accused of sexual assault has emerged in recent months, as indicated by expressions of concern by law professors, a new federal legislative initiative, key judicial decisions, evolving media coverage, and upcoming public events.
The shift in the debate can be traced to public critiques of university sexual assault policies by faculty members at Harvard Law School, and later at Penn Law.  In May, 70 legal scholars wrote the American Law Institute regarding a proposed Model Penal Code on Sexual Assault that would over-criminalize sexual contact and remove the presumption of innocence.
In July, the Safe Campus Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill assigns lead investigative responsibility to local police and delineates a series of due process protections. The bill has been endorsed by the National District Attorneys Association, National Association of Scholars, and six other groups.
Four judicial decisions in the past two months have overturned the findings of campus sex tribunals for due process violations. The decisions involved the University of California-San Diego, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Washington and Lee University, and University of Southern California:
Columnists have increasingly emphasized the need for due process and restoration of the presumption of innocence in campus assault cases. Over 600 editorials have been published in 2015 alone.
During upcoming months, two events will further explore the need for due process protections:
On September 16, a public debate in New York City will examine the proposition, Courts, Not Campuses, Should Decide Sexual Assault Cases.
On October 8, an event titled Due Process Goes to School: How to Handle Campus Sexual Assault Cases will take place in Washington, DC.
“Due process represents a pillar of the American legal system,” notes Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) spokesperson Sheryle Hutter. “Sadly, campus activists have ignored this fundamental precept for much too long.”