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Cohen opinion piece published in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Sexual assault cases should be handled by the criminal justice system, not college administrators

College sex assault trials belong in court, not on campus, according to a recent opinion piece recently published in the Chronicle of Higher Education by MPRC Faculty Associate Philip Cohen. Sexual assault laws have historically privileged the perspective of the perpetrator rather than the victim, and the resulting lack of trust in the system means that the majority of rapes and sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Disciplinary proceedings at colleges and universities are quicker, less public, and require lower standards of proof than criminal proceedings. But Cohen argues that relying on colleges to handle the problem downgrades sexual violence from a real crime to a women’s issue.

College administrators are not qualified to be criminal investigators, and their interests are divided between doing the right thing and protecting their reputations. “As institutions, they bring to the task a toxic mix of unqualified investigators, underdeveloped judiciary processes, and conflicts of interest that undermine both their effectiveness and their legitimacy,” says Cohen. Instead, the proper role of colleges and universities should be to work with the criminal justice system, support victims, encourage counseling, and suspend or expel students who are charged with violent crimes. This will allow colleges to focus on their most important job: education. Cohen concluded, “Colleges will be more effective at combating the cultural supports of systemic sexual violence if they remove themselves from the roles of law-enforcement officer and prosecutor, and instead turn to the work of developing knowledge, fostering new kinds of thinking, and challenging young people to change their society - including the criminal justice system - for the better.”

Read the story in The Chronicle of Higher Education

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