In a broad and rapid change in how U.S. colleges and universities deal with sexual-assault allegations, campuses have rewritten policies to lower the burden of proof for finding a student culpable of assault, increasing penalties to occasional expulsion. In the process, reports the Wall Street Journal, schools find themselves in legal minefields as they try to balance the rights of accuser and accused. More than 30 men have sued educational institutions since January 2014 alleging due-process violations in sexual-assault cases, says A Voice for Male Students, an advocacy group.
In 2011, the U.S. Education Department told schools they risked federal investigation and financial penalties if they didn't protect students from sexual harassment and violence under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.The letter told schools to take action if a “preponderance of evidence” indicated sexual harassment or violence—a lower burden of proof than campuses often use for plagiarism. Many campuses interpreted “preponderance of evidence” as a likelihood of more than 50 percent, not the previous “clear and convincing evidence” of wrongdoing. Schools must treat violence against women as a civil-rights injury, not a crime, says Alexandra Brodsky, co-founder of Know Your IX, a student advocacy group. Schools must treat a woman the way they treat a minority student who is allegedly harmed, she says.