United States: Campus Safety Bill Fails to Compel Schools to Comply with Vice President’s Call to Address Sexual Assault
Tuesday, May 22, 2012 12:35 PM

A bill called the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act does little to compel schools to comply with a call from Vice President Biden to enforce the provisions in Title IX to deal "promptly," "equitably" and "effectively" with campus-based reports of violence "based on sex." Several universities and colleges including Harvard Law School and Princeton have been resisting Biden’s "Dear Colleagues" letter. One particularly contentious point was the standard of evidence schools are supposed to apply when responding to allegations of sexual assault. The Office for Civil Rights, which enforces Title IX, has ruled that a “preponderance of evidence” standard (about 51 percent proof) should be applied to violence “based on sex” just as it is to violence based on race, religion, and ethnicity. However, some schools continue to use the more stringent “clear and convincing” standard (about 75 percent proof) for sexual assault.
Initially draft language of the SaVE Act required schools to use the preponderance of evidence standard but that language was quickly removed, giving schools opposing the provisions in Title IX more ammunition. “The preponderance standard is crucial to the fair and equal treatment of women because it avoids the presumption, inherent in a higher standard of proof, that the word of a victim is always less weighty than the denial of an offender” explains Wendy Murphy, a WeNews contributing editor and professor at New England Law Boston. Moreover, the SaVE Act undermines Biden’s letter and the “promptness” mandate in Title IX by allowing schools to delay the "final determination" of a sexual assault complaint for years, until the eve of graduation.