Hate Case Illustrates Colleges’ “Parallel Judicial Universe”


The scandal that ended the reign of longtime Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno is emblematic of a parallel judicial universe that exists at many colleges and universities, says the New York Times. In recent years, Marquette University has been accused of mishandling accusations of sexual assault by four athletes, and Arizona State has been faulted over the handling of a student's rape, allegedly by a football player with a history of sexual aggression.

On most campuses, law enforcement is in the hands of sworn police officers who report to university authorities, not to the public. With arrest powers, such campus police forces have enormous discretion in deciding whether to refer cases directly to district attorneys or to leave them to the quiet handling of in-house disciplinary proceedings. Penn State police investigated a complaint in 1998 about Jerry Sandusky, the ex-assistant coach who has been was charged with sexually abusing eight boys, and turned it over to the district attorney, who declined to prosecute.

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