The Senate will hold a hearing Wednesday to discuss the alleged “epidemic” of campus sexual assault and how to combat the problem. To the dismay of due process advocates, the hearing panels are stacked against fair hearings for students.
The first panel features four senators — Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Dean Heller, R-Nev.; and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. All four were original sponsors of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act introduced in 2014, and all four are sponsors on the updated version introduced earlier this year.
CASA will surely be the focus of their panel, which is a shame because the bill is devoid of due process protections for accused students. When the bill was first introduced in 2014, I sent six questions to each of the original sponsors. Of the four sitting on the panel this Wednesday, only Ayotte’s office responded — and the response ignored a question about due process. A series of follow-up questions were never answered.
Neither Heller nor McCaskill’s office ever responded to the original questions. A staffer from Gillibrand’s office called me back but was uninterested in answering questions; instead, the staffer merely gave me an overview of the bill.
The updated version of the bill introduced in March includes the words “due process” three times and refers to accusers as “victims” even before any evidence is collected or any verdict is rendered — a clear bias against accused students. And as for due process, the bill only gives students as much due process as “afforded to them under institutional policy,” not the rights afforded to them by the Constitution of the United States. Those rights under institutional policy vary widely among colleges across the U.S., and no college gives students actual due process rights.