A horrifying story out of Vanderbilt, where four former football players–Cory Batey, JaBorian McKenzie, Brandon Vandenburg, and Brandon Banks–have been charged with sexually assaulting an unconscious Vanderbilt student. Authorities suggest that both video and photographic evidence exists to bolster the allegations. The alleged crime occurred in a Vanderbilt dorm.
If true, the allegations will–and should–raise questions of the caliber of students Vanderbilt football coach James Franklin has been recruiting. Vandenburg, for instance, was a junior college transfer. How many non-football players does an elite school like Vanderbilt admit from junior colleges every year? I suspect the number is very small indeed.
But for those concerned with campus due process, the Vanderbilt affair has the potential to be an important turning point, since the university’s behavior provides a model of how colleges should handle allegations of sexual assault, a model that squarely rejects the solutions championed by on-campus activists and their allies in the Office for Civil Rights.
Underlying the anti-due process movement, which dramatically accelerated in 2011 with the “Dear Colleague” letter and the OCR investigation of Yale, is a basic assumption: that campus rape is the sort of crime that should not be investigated by the police or handled through the criminal process, since law enforcement authorities are insufficiently sensitive to accusers and the legal process provides too many protections to the accused. Far better, according to this theory, to set up a parallel system of “justice” in which conviction is almost certain, either because of absurdly low evidentiary standards or because the accused student is denied anything approaching due process. Yale’s “informal complaint” process is the perfect example of this concept, with the university having set up a process that the accuser functionally controls and in which the accused isn’t guaranteed a right to present evidence of his innocence.
According to a statement from the Nashville Police, when Vanderbilt university police discovered evidence of a possible crime (by examining dorm video on an unrelated issue), they quickly reported that evidence to the Nashville Police. As a result, the Nashville Police, rather than untrained university administrators, conducted the criminal investigation. It appears from the statement that Vanderbilt itself (not the accuser) made the initial decision to turn the matter over to police. In short, the university did precisely what on-campus “activists” seem to strongly oppose—it treated rape as a serious crime, and as such something to be investigated by trained authorities, outside the confines of the university.
The question now: will the anti-due process campus “activists” for whom figures such as the Times’ Richard Pérez-Peña and Inside Higher Ed’s Allie Grasgreen have served as virtual stenographers now denounce Vanderbilt, for reporting a possible crime to police rather than proceeding through rigged university procedures?