As colleges have been cracking down on campus sexual assault, some students complain that schools are going too far and trampling the rights of the accused in the process. In recent months, courts have offered some students some significant victories, slamming schools for systems that are stacked against the accused, NPR reports. “Schools are overcorrecting,” says a student from the University of California, San Diego. “People like me are always getting get hurt.” The student, who was suspended last spring after a fellow student accused him of sexual assault, says he was shocked by the accusation and denies any nonconsensual contact. He and his alleged victim had been hanging out, texting, partying and studying together on friendly terms for months after the alleged assault, he says. He never had a chance to make his case because the school wouldn’t let him introduce evidence, challenge the investigator or effectively cross-examine his accuser.
He took his case to court, filing as John Doe, and won a ruling against UC-San Diego. The judge said the school’s process was unfairly sewed against Doe and ordered the school to reinstate him. “While the Court respects the university’s determination to address sexual abuse and violence on its campus,” wrote Superior Court Judge Joel Pressman, “the hearing against petitioner was unfair.” “A case like this makes for a really easy lesson to say, ‘This is what not to do,’ ” says New England law school professor Erin Buzuvis, who blogs on sexual assault and consults universities on how to handle allegations. The San Diego ruling is one of a recent flurry of decisions slamming schools for systems stacked against accused students. In the past few months, Middlebury College and the University of Southern California were ordered to reinstate expelled students. So was the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga after a judge ruled the school was upending a fundamental principle of justice by making an accused perpetrator prove he wasn’t guilty.