Education Secretary Betsy DeVos unveiled plans last week to reconsider how colleges and universities investigate campus sexual assault.
While surveys can be contradictory, some reveal that as many as one-in-four women report having some type of unwanted sexual contact in college, with most incidents going unreported to police. In 2011, the Obama administration sent a letter to universities that addressed the legal obligation of colleges to investigate sexual violence. In response, universities ramped up investigations.
That pleased advocates for sexual-assault victims. But the more aggressive approach taken by universities also brought criticism, and not just from conservatives, that some students accused of assault were not afforded basic protections to defend themselves.
DeVos’ announcement starts the process to rescind that Obama-era policy. DeVos said that while the policy was well-intentioned, the effect was a lack of due process for those accused.
Bridge Magazine has twice chronicled difficult, highly charged cases at Michigan’s largest universities, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. Together, the articles demonstrate how complicated, inconsistent and maddening campus sex assault investigations can be.
At U-M, the assault investigation of a star football player dragged on for years, and just happened to conclude as his football eligibility was ending. Meanwhile, another male U-M student was suspended from the school for an alleged assault in hearings (one held via Skype) in which he was never allowed to question witnesses or know their names.
Read about those cases here: “Two U-M sexual assault cases, little satisfaction”
In a 2014 incident involving two MSU students, a male student was sanctioned for “one-time, non-consensual touching” after he touched his lover’s breast not long after the pair had consensual sex ‒ an incident his accuser did not report until 16 months later.
You can read that story here: “An unwanted touch. Two lives in free fall. A dispatch from the drive to stop sexual assault on campus.”