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Disagreement on Campus Judicial Systems For Sexual Assaults

Since the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights affirmed in its 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter that colleges should use a lower standard of evidence than criminal courts when adjudicating sexual assault complaints, many civil liberties advocates, lawyers and even politicians have accused the federal government of trampling students’ right to due process. Campus officials, for the most part, have stressed that adjudication is an educational experience, where students are found “responsible” rather than “guilty,” so their processes should be different from the criminal justice system’s.

But during a two-day “dialogue” about sexual misconduct and college students here at the University of Virginia, it was clear that discontent over OCR’s decree — not to mention the question of whether colleges should even be adjudicating these cases in the first place — is alive and well within academe.