Two updates on the congressional efforts to mandate weakened due process protections on campus.
First, the Washington Examiner’s Ashe Schow sent a list of questions to the eight co-sponsors of the Senate “Campus Accountability and Safety Act.” Only one office—that of Marco Rubio (R-Florida)—appears to have responded. The spokesperson’s comments would do little to reassure people of the legislation’s intent.
Noting the bill’s requirement for campus support services for accusers, Schow asked Rubio what the bill would do for the accused. After all, if the senators had any concern with due process, they would want to ensure, as Schow’s question noted, that there would be someone on campus providing accused students “with information on what they can do to provide for their own defense,” and that accused students would be “informed of their rights.” Schow also asked a key question: “Will those rights be under the law (due process) or under campus rules?”
The one-sentence response of Rubio’s spokesperson, Alex Conant? “This bill does not address this issue.” So much for even the pretense of fairness.
Schow’s question elicited a second intriguing response. The Examiner reporter wanted to know, under the bill’s terms, whether college officials or local law enforcement would have the most “authority” over the investigation.
The spokesperson’s response? Neither. “The victim will have the most authority.” But, of course, at the investigation stage (the time-frame in the question), there is no “victim”: there’s an accuser and an accused student. If the allegation turns out to be false, the “victim” would be the falsely accused student. But in Rubio’s mind, it appears that the accuser is always the victim. Since Rubio believes that “the victim will have the most authority,” does that authority include the power to close down an investigation if the college or police conclude the “victim” has lied?
Second, in the wake of the McCaskill bill, a second measure, sponsored by two California Democrats (Susan Davis in the House and Barbara Boxer in the Senate), was introduced. It seems the chief purpose of the Boxer/Davis bill is to make the McCaskill measure look, by comparison, like the work of the ACLU.
The bill would require all colleges that receive federal funds to appoint “an independent advocate for campus sexual assault and prevention” who “shall represent the interests of the student victim even when in conflict with the interests of the institution.” As with the McCaskill-Rubio offering, Boxer and Davis appear to assume that an accuser is automatically a “student victim.”
The scope of the advocate’s power is enormous. According to the bill’s terms, the advocate must be given the power to “conduct a public information campaign” regarding campus sexual assault services, to include “training coaches, faculty, school administrators, and other staff” regarding the advocate’s role.
Second, the advocate must receive authority to attend “at the request of the victim of sexual assault, any administrative or institution-based adjudication proceeding related to such assault as an advocate for the victim.”
Yet the Boxer/Davis offering contains no such requirement for the accused student. It gives a sense of how the two California Democrats view due process that they want to require colleges to provide a quasi-legal “advocate” for the complaining witness, but see no need to require such a position for the accused student.
From Boxer to Rubio, due process has no political lobby.