Phi Beta Cons

A Welcome Call to Dismantle Campus Kangaroo Courts

This week, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article by University of Maryland professor and self-identified feminist Philip Cohen. It is a must-read for anyone who cares about ending the regular miscarriages of justice that occur when we turn campuses into courts for adjudicating cases of sexual assault.

After laying out the arguments some give in favor of having colleges prosecute sexual assault, Cohen explains why such an approach is dangerous and wrongheaded:

[T]his downgrades sexual violence from a real crime to a women’s issue. And there is no evidence that it is working to reduce sexual violence on and around campuses. There are, however, lots of stories of failure, on campuses ranging from small, elite colleges to big public institutions.


[E]xperience so far painfully demonstrates that colleges are not competent to adjudicate and prevent sexual violence. 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.

This is, of course, precisely what groups like ACTA, FIRE, The Pope Center, and a whole bevy of higher ed reformers have been arguing for years. Kangaroo courts on campus do a disservice to both the accused and the victims of assault. Whatever the flaws in our criminal-justice system, it remains vastly superior to the closed-door machinations of campus bureaucrats. With the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights running amok and the press engaging in sensationalistic reporting on the issue, it seems everyone else is finally waking up and calling for real justice for both victims and the accused.


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