The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a civil liberties group and longtime critic of college rape investigations, believes that schools should make an effort to interview all witnesses, including non-students who might have more neutral testimony."It could be an injustice for whichever student would've benefited [from the witnesses who were ignored]," said Joe Cohn, FIRE's legislative and policy director.Students accused of sexual assault are complaining about the failure of universities nationwide to interview their witnesses, echoing similar complaints from alleged rape victims.
Even if it's not because of bias, it might be because of incompetence." A John Doe at Columbia, a member of the men's crew team, insisted that his sexual encounter was not only consensual but his accuser's idea.
As is typically the case, absent physical evidence, the university was left to determine who was more credible.
The department's Office for Civil Rights guidance has said investigations must be equitable, providing similar rights to both parties in these cases, but the department has not prescribed how or which witnesses should be interviewed.
While it may not be required, legal experts have said there is little reason why a university shouldn't choose to interview all available witnesses.
"You don't have the problem in a criminal justice system with subpoena powers.
But there's an additional reason to be angry at the schools who don't even make an effort.
And just as victims have complained, Doe declared the notes to be inaccurate when he saw them the following October.
Male students filing lawsuits against Columbia University and Vassar College in New York, Reed College in Oregon, Duke University in North Carolina, Washington & Lee University in Virginia and the University of Michigan contend that when they were accused of sexual assault -- falsely, they say -- their schools failed to hear from witnesses whose testimony might have exonerated them.
The federal gender equity law Title IX requires colleges to address sexual harassment and violence on campus, and the U. Department of Education has said that means investigating allegations of a student assaulting a classmate.
(Especially in such situations, legal experts recommend interviewing all available witnesses.) But Columbia failed to interview three students present on the night of the alleged assault, Doe claimed, and none of them were invited to participate in the eventual February 2014 hearing.
Just as alleged sexual assault victims at Columbia have said, Doe noted that school investigators declined to record interviews and instead took handwritten notes.