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How do new federal guidelines on campus sexual assault balance rights of victims and the accused?




U.S Vice President Joe Biden (R) listens as Madeleine Smith, a graduate of Harvard University who was raped while attending college, speaks during an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building April 29, 2014 in Washington, DC.
U.S Vice President Joe Biden (R) listens as Madeleine Smith, a graduate of Harvard University who was raped while attending college, speaks during an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building April 29, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

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Mounting victim outrage and reports of mishandled sexual assault cases prompted President Obama to appoint a special task force to take a deeper look at college campuses.

After a ninety day look at fifty schools of various sizes, their findings prompted the White House to lay out detailed guidelines for universities. Announced this week, the guidelines include  rules governing victim confidentiality, plans to develop better prevention strategies, and guidelines for handling allegations.

The White House has also called for greater transparency and has launched a website for colleges to report sexual assault incidents, Notalone.gov. There, students can also find out how to file a complaint of a sexual assault incident, find resources for seeking help, and check a map to see if enforcement actions have been taken on their campus.

Some college officials and attorneys are now worried that the rights of those accused may be infringed upon. Title IX investigations that don’t necessarily lead to criminal justice proceedings are often conducted behind closed doors, and the details of the incident are often murky and sometimes involve alcohol and vague recollections. Some are worried that accused students may not have access to fair hearings.

Advocates of accusers claim that, historically, colleges have failed to address claims when the circumstances are murky, at the detriment of the victims and often to the advantage of the accused. They claim that the obligation of schools is to protect the survivors and welcome the guidelines presented by the Obama Administration as a good first step.

Do the guidelines announced by the White House fairly address the concerns of both victims advocates and the accused? Will greater transparency infringe on the rights of those accused of misconduct who are never criminally charged?

Guests:

 
Mark Hathaway, private defense attorney in Los Angeles whose practice includes students and others accused of sexual misconduct.

Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment at the National Women’s Law Center