Universities are ill-equipped to handle sexual assault cases

Sexual assault is a sensitive and serious topic, particularly on college campuses. It involves forcing unwanted sexual activity on others by using threats or taking advantage of people who cannot give consent, such as those under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Should colleges handle sexual assault cases that occur on their property, or should courts handle them? I argue that due to a general lack of sufficient resources, conflicting interests, decreased ability to protect the rights of the accused, and inadequate means to bring justice to victims by holding the guilty accountable, college campuses are not equipped to manage sexual assault investigations.

It’s clear that courts can handle sexual assault cases more efficiently than colleges due to the sheer amount of resources and technologies that they have access to that universities do not. Colleges cannot serve justice to the victim or the accused due to a lack of resources, such as rape kits. The criminal justice system is designed to deal with these situations thoroughly and justly. Universities are meant for knowledge-seeking and sharing, not for passing judgment on behalf of the law. When campuses handle sexual assault cases, they may allow the accused to prosper because they will not be criminally convicted. Universities have numerous day-to-day responsibilities, and adding serious and sensitive crimes such as sexual assault makes it difficult for them to deal with these cases effectively. Universities can potentially handle less serious sexual assault cases, such as groping, but when it becomes an issue of rape, those in the criminal justice system should take over. Courts bring justice to the victim and make them feel safe and secure, while universities often let criminals go free with no punishment. These criminals are then able to roam freely, potentially harming more innocent people who will then become victims.

When universities deal with these issues, they are often more concerned with bad publicity, defunding that follows sexual assault allegations, and keeping the offender anonymous to maintain their reputation. It’s difficult to deal with thousands of students at one time. Universities have no interest in one single student but would rather focus on the institution as a whole. This is unfair for the victim when all the university cares about is its reputation. With courts, the victim is the main and only priority. The justice system does not have to worry about thousands of other people or protecting funding from private sources. The victim’s well-being and security is the main focus of the criminal justice system, as it should be when handling delicate cases such as sexual assault or rape.

Apart from reputation and resource issues, universities are not equipped to handle the rights of the accused in sexual assault cases. Campus regulations against sexual assault are too broad, leaving room for offenders to escape punishment and for the innocent to be unfairly penalized. A student accused of sexual assault on campus must prove that 100% of the encounter was consensual beyond a reasonable doubt, while the person making the claim only has to prove 51% of the evidence for someone to be proven guilty. This imbalance raises questions about equity and fairness in the process. Jed Rubenfeld, a Yale professor, argued that affirmative consent policies are unenforceable, overly broad, and categorically redefine all drunk sex as rape. Additionally, in situations where both parties are incapacitated by drugs and alcohol, it may be difficult to determine what actually happened, making it unfair for one person to be accused without proof.

Courts have the ability to investigate and resolve sexual assault cases more effectively than universities due to their resources, tools, and expertise. Courts use due process, which guarantees the right to an equal and fair trial for both the victim and the accused. When universities handle cases on their own, the accused can often face punishment before being proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Minor sexual assault cases, such as groping, can be handled by the university through disciplinary action. However, more serious cases like rape should be left for the courts to decide.

One example of the courts handling a situation more effectively than a university is the 2007 Duke lacrosse team case. When allegations of gang rape emerged, the university started firing coaches and suspending and expelling players over the accusations. However, when the courts investigated the case, they found out that the woman had not been gang-raped and was falsely accusing innocent people for publicity. Without the intervention of the courts, the innocent players would have had their lives ruined due to false allegations.

While universities have a responsibility to address sexual assault on their campuses, they are not equipped to handle sexual assault cases effectively. The criminal justice system is better equipped to investigate and resolve these cases, and it ensures the right to a fair trial for both the victim and the accused. Universities should focus on creating a safe and supportive environment for survivors of sexual assault, providing resources and support, and working in partnership with law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of sexual assault.

Sexual assault cases often fail to provide relief for the victim or respect the rights of the accused when handled by college campuses. The accused student can continue to live on campus and even target other innocent people, while the victim is usually only offered a change in schedule or location to avoid their attacker. If the university does take action, the only punishment they can provide is expulsion, which could allow the abuser to enroll in another school and continue their behavior. A tragic example of this is the case of V. Silva, who sexually assaulted six women at three different universities due to poor communication between the schools. If the case was handled by the courts, authorities could easily communicate through jurisdictions and prevent the offender from reoffending, making the victim feel safe and secure.

Allowing the courts to handle sexual assault cases not only protects the victim, but also the general public from potential future attacks. The courts can truly punish the offender and bring justice to the victim, while also protecting those who may have been falsely accused. It is necessary to prevent people like Silva from being able to freely walk around in public and harm others. The safety of innocent people and the future generations depends on keeping communities free from abusers.

The United States has always been guided by the moral value of freedom, with a premise of “innocent until proven guilty.” Universities that handle sexual assault cases ultimately fail both the accused and the victim, as well as the public. The criminal justice system has been functioning for over 200 years with the purpose of bringing justice to the victims, making it crucial for the system to take control of sexual assault cases in order to ensure the safety of college campuses and the general public.

Why universities should decide sexual assault cases

Approximately 20% of women and 7% of men experience rape or sexual assault while attending college, but only 20% of these incidents are reported to law enforcement. This gap in reporting represents a significant issue, not only in terms of accountability but also in the protection of college students through law enforcement. However, Title IX in the Education Amendments of 1972 grants and expects colleges to combat sexual discrimination, gender inequality, and other forms of violence or misconduct. This amendment prohibits discrimination based on sex in any educational program that receives federal assistance, making it applicable to sexual assault, which perpetuates gender inequality. Thus, if a university wishes to maintain its federal funding, it is the university’s responsibility to prevent and respond to reports of sexual violence. Since sexual violence can impact someone’s access to education, holding perpetrators accountable on all levels is crucial for the community and victims of sexual assault. Therefore, universities should be authorized to handle sexual assault cases.

Regarding accountability for cases of sexual assault, it is essential to acknowledge the extensive amount of time that criminal trials take. Many cases go on for years before a verdict is reached, and even after a lengthy trial, only one-fifth of sexual assault cases lead to prosecution. According to Know Your IX, “even survivors who report to the police are often abandoned by the system. Only a quarter of all reported rapes lead to an arrest, only a fifth lead to prosecution, and only half of those prosecutions result in felony convictions.” Many survivors of sexual assault are hesitant to involve law enforcement due to fear of skepticism or judgment from officers. Others are discouraged from contacting law enforcement due to concerns about retaliation from the assailant, which is intensified by the fact that only three out of every 100 assailants are imprisoned. University-controlled civil procedures can be an alternative method of pursuing justice and establishing safety on college campuses.

Through Title IX regulations, universities have a unique opportunity to assist survivors and create a safer campus environment. This alternative procedure can be used for smaller infractions as well. Another common obstacle to reporting sexual assault is not feeling validated as a victim. Not every sexual assault case is rape or even violent, but everyone deserves to be heard and protected. Police departments often lack the resources to investigate every infraction, such as harassment, crude jokes, or stalking. These cases, which may not rise to the level of criminal conduct, demonstrate the effectiveness and necessity of university civil operations. Additionally, not all states have laws that cover sexual violence from all angles. Many states have laws that exclude men from being victims altogether or that do not include same-sex encounters. For some victims, their university is the only way to obtain justice because disciplinary action can be taken through the university even when there is insufficient evidence to pursue criminal action.

There is a common misconception that Title IX allows universities to act as the law. However, this is far from the truth. Universities and law enforcement can work simultaneously on cases; filing through Title IX does not prevent someone from taking legal action as well. Universities act as a supplemental form of justice for everyone, including those who wish to involve law enforcement and those who do not. As the article Why schools handle sexual violence reports explains, “This isn’t a replacement for reporting to the police; it’s a parallel option for survivors based on civil rights – rather than criminal – law.” Schools should not wait for the conclusion of a criminal trial to begin their investigation. University civil cases for sexual assault work as an additional opportunity to prioritize safety on campuses. This can allow victims to feel safe even in the midst of a criminal trial.

Despite the beneficial aspects of universities deciding on sexual assault cases, there is significant opposition as well. Nearly every aspect of Title IX has been debated, particularly regarding sexual assault. Some argue that Title IX should not be applicable to sexual assault cases at all, questioning whether sexual assault is discriminatory in nature. Nancy Gertner counters this argument by stating, “Sexual misconduct impairs a woman’s ability to function as an equal in an academic environment and, by extension, menaces all women” (2015). One major issue with universities deciding on sexual assault cases is the investigative process. Critics contend that the new policies are of questionable constitutionality and have turned campus sexual assault hearings into “kangaroo courts” that ignore the accused’s due process rights to obtain easy convictions. This question of constitutionality arises from the lack of due process and concrete trial policy seen in campus sexual assault hearings. According to the 2011 guidance, the civil trials that universities hold are not substantial enough to warrant due process because they will never result in incarceration. Therefore, concerns about unconstitutionality are not valid.

It is true that trials, hearings, and investigations held by universities are not perfect. They can result in “reports of false charges, biased proceedings, and due process violations” (Gertner, 2015), but all of these concerns also occur in some criminal trials. Instead of not allowing universities to decide on sexual assault cases, options exist to make the process more regulated and transparent to reduce negative outcomes. Improving federal enforcement of Title IX so schools actually follow legal requirements can be a viable solution to reduce complaints about the process of Title IX hearings.

In general, nothing is perfect, and Title IX is no exception. However, Title IX was created as a safeguard to reduce discrimination and address campus safety concerns for students and staff members. It has proven useful in allowing victims of sexual assault further protections that do not involve the uncertainty and length of a criminal trial. The criminal justice system also receives constant backlash for how they handle sexual assault reports and investigations. Therefore, uncertainties surrounding Title IX should be further investigated as a means to improve the amendment and its implementation. The decision for civil protection can be used with or in the absence of a criminal investigation and trial. Universities deciding on sexual assault cases allows for the victim’s needs to be fully assessed and can provide safety in a timely manner compared to criminal trials. Not requiring or allowing universities to decide on sexual assault cases eliminates an additional layer of protection, safety, and accountability for victims of sexual assault.

Should we legalize drugs?

The legalization of drugs is a controversial topic. Why would we legalize something that kills our children and makes people violent or poor? The answer is simple: it is a public health issue, not a criminal one. Legalizing drugs is the right step towards a brighter future for a large percentage of Americans and their communities. Fewer people would be incarcerated for possession, selling, and usage and they would be actively contributing to society. Racial disparity would decrease as people of color would stop being targeted. Drug use and drug deaths would go down as more resources would go to saving lives and promoting security, prosperity, health, and well-being. There would be a reduction in violence within communities by removing drug dealers and drug lords from the streets.

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to the term “legalization”. What does it mean to legalize drugs? With the legalization of drugs, criminality, incarceration, and black markets decrease, eliminating the numerous social problems that exist within communities today. The legalization process of marijuana, which is currently underway, has been characterized by the argument that “Personal use and possession of drugs are private behaviors. Criminalizing them entails intruding on human autonomy and privacy rights” (Sanchez-Moreno, 2014). Personal drug use and possession doesn’t harm others, and it leads to incarceration which has been shown to have destructive consequences not only for the individual drug users but also for their families and the community at large. Institutional economic infrastructure is currently being built to accommodate the legalization of marijuana. With regards to the legalization of more fatal drugs such as cocaine, meth, heroin, etc… should be addressed in specific stages of legal control and regulations and customized resources should be developed to manage each stage with appropriate results. Fatal drugs need to be monitored carefully with accessible clinics, trained staff, and people-centered educational and health resources.

Far too many African-Americans and people of color are incarcerated for possession or production of drugs, coming from disproportionately low-income families and communities. Additionally, drug users who are incarcerated along with violent criminals and murderers have a low chance of healthy rehabilitation. White people are also involved in drug dealing and are incarcerated far less than African Americans. According to the Huffpost, “Some studies indicate that white youth are significantly more likely to engage in illegal drug dealing than black youth.” (Alexander, 2010). A report by the Sentencing Project concludes, “Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as White men and Latinos are 2.5 times as likely. For Black men in their thirties, about 1 in every 12 is in prison or jail on any given day” (The Sentencing Project, n.d.). The Sentencing Project also highlights that although illegal drug use is similar between White people, African Americans, and Latinx, “45% of all convicted drug offenders in state prison are Black compared to 28 percent that is White and 20 percent that are Hispanic” (The Sentencing Project, n.d.). Incarceration is knowingly harmful to offenders and rehabilitative methods and treatment has been proven to be more successful in helping substance abusers.

Drugs are often followed by excessive and easily avoidable violence, a key factor that makes the drug trade extremely dangerous. According to the Washington Post, “Drug users generally aren’t violent… It’s the corner slinger who terrifies neighbors and invites rivals to attack” (Moskos & Franklin, 2009). In legalizing drugs, violence would be drastically reduced through the elimination of drug dealers, drug cartels, and kingpins since the profit motive would no longer exist. Furthermore, violence by and against police would also be reduced reversing the lack of trust and confidence by communities in law enforcement. An article writing on how the ‘War on Drugs’ has failed writes, “Heavily investing in a criminalization approach can inadvertently lead to an arms race between law enforcement and violent trafficking organizations, make those markets more ruthless, and increase the homicide rates” (The Leadership Conference Education Fund, n.d.). There are many civic groups around the country working to reduce violence and by legalizing drugs, they believe that the incentive would be eliminated violence and profiteering.

Many experts agree that the War on Drugs has largely been unsuccessful in reducing the usage and production of dugs. The Total Federal Drug Budget was $34.5 billion in 2020 alone (Federal Drug Control Funding, 2020). The enormous amount of money congress spends every year on the War on Drugs could be reallocated to promote alternatives to incarceration, promote drug research and health services, and provide access to controlled drugs along with essential medicines. Additionally, funds for developing a drug education program could help reduce the demand for drugs and minimize the influence of violent cartels. By providing resources for drug treatment and creating more growth opportunities in underserved communities with the aim of eliminating drug use and subsequent violence, communities will begin to thrive. The War on Drugs has largely failed not only because of its repressive strategies but “Arresting and incarcerating tens of millions of these people in recent decades has filled prisons and destroyed lives and families without reducing the availability of illicit drugs or the power of criminal organizations” (The Leadership Conference Education Fund, n.d.). Incarceration does not work for drug use, as recidivism rates show that drug offenders just offend again and go back to prison if they don’t receive treatment and community-based support, which is rare due to the War on Drugs mentality. In the 40 years since Nixon declared the war on drugs, a report from the global commission concludes that the war on drugs failed. Instead, millions of people have been incarcerated, and lives and families have been destroyed without reducing the availability of drugs or the influence of criminal organizations (The Leadership Conference Education Fund, n.d.).

If drugs are legalized, drug usage and drug-related deaths would decrease significantly. In other countries around the world, they have seen similar positive results in legalizing drugs simply by reducing the fine and creating more treatment programs instead of prison time and a criminal record. In 2001, Portugal decriminalized drugs, including heroin, cocaine, and weed, and instead of jail time for possession of drugs, drug users were given a small fine and a referral to a treatment program. In an article discussing Portugal’s legalization of drugs, it mentions that “The prevalence of past-year and past-month drug use among young adults has fallen since 2001, according to statistics compiled by the Transform Drug Policy Foundation… Overall adult use is down slightly too. And new HIV cases among drug users are way down,” (Perry, 2017). People are less likely to be concerned about being caught with drugs, thus reducing the incentives to evade legal channels. Along with fewer deaths, HIV cases and adult drug usage have decreased significantly. With this new approach to drugs, Portugal has the second-lowest drug-related deaths in the European Union in terms of drug-related deaths. In contrast, the United States holds the number one spot in drug-related deaths due to its continued policies in the criminalization of drugs.
In order for the legalization of drugs to be successful and effective, a sound drug education program with the aim of reducing and ultimately eliminating the demand for harmful drugs should be simultaneously developed. According to Aspenridge Recovery, a treatment center for addiction, mental health, and trauma, “The best solution is to reach young people with effective, fact-based drug education—before they start experimenting with drugs” (Aspenridge Recovery, n.d.). Everyone can benefit from being exposed to what addiction looks like, what addiction can lead to, and the negative effects of harmful drugs on both mental and physical health. Not only will young people be educated on the drug epidemic issue, community residents, physicians, law enforcement, educators, and all pillars of the community are taught as well (Aspenridge Recovery, n.d.).

Others contend that the legalization of drugs is not the way to go and that it is a step in the wrong direction. For example, many believe that organized crime groups would not take lightly the legalization and retaliate with intensified violence. It has been argued that organized crime groups would take over other illegal economies such as “the smuggling of other contraband or migrants, prostitution, extortion, and kidnapping” and they may “also seek to take over the black economy… [thus] their political power over society will be greater than ever” (Felbab-Brown, 2012). However, these organized crime groups are most likely already involved in these other illegal economies, and with law enforcement being able to focus on them without the pressing drug crime, they will have better resources to close down these groups.

Ultimately, legalizing the drug trade, and overhauling the existing regulations and infrastructure at local, state, and federal levels, while at the same time, redirecting the resources for education, treatment, health, and revitalization of communities, will create a happier healthier nation. Evidence has shown time and time again that creating more punitive laws that seem to mostly target nonviolent drug users while at the same time increasing violence and corruption due to the profit incentive of the illegal drug trade has hurt numerous communities around the country. Legalizing the drug trade could also help rebuild the trust between law enforcement, the judicial system, and communities. If a regulatory framework around legalizing drugs is designed to meet the specific needs of the different political, social, and cultural components of communities then we will see a positive change, more responsible drug use, or even no drug use.