Can University Probe Students for Far-Away Rapes?

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Does a university have the right, or responsibility, to investigate a claim one of its students raped someone hundreds of miles away? A Harvard University student argues the school is overstepping its authority by investigating him for a rape allegation lodged by a nonstudent in a city where police declined to prosecute, the Boston Globe reports. Saying he faces “a grave risk of being incorrectly branded a rapist,” the Harvard student argues that the school has no jurisdiction and he wants the investigation halted. The suit was filed Nov. 28, less than two weeks after the Trump administration proposed revising the rules for college sex assault investigations. One of them says colleges are responsible for policing misconduct that occurs only on their property or within their programs.

The suit signaled to worried Harvard activists that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s efforts to overhaul the Title IX process are altering the landscape of sex assault investigations. Like DeVos’s rewrite of the regulations, the lawsuit aims to rein in perceived excesses of the campus disciplinary process that men’s rights advocates and civil rights attorneys have described as Kafkaesque. Harvard’s Title IX officer launched an investigation after learning about the allegation. “I don’t think there’s much the school can or really should do unless the evidence is so bad that this person is deemed an obvious danger on campus,” said Robert Shibley of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which backs more due process in college discipline. Women’s rights groups fighting the new federal proposal say that argument misunderstands the purpose of Title IX, the law that guards women’s education from sexual discrimination or harassment. Shiwali Patel of the National Women’s Law Center said schools should know about troubling behavior from a student or employee, whether on campus or off.

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