Thanks to ongoing pressure from activists and orders from the federal government, the campus Title IX bureaucracy has grown and grown over the past several years, with universities devoting larger shares of their budget to administrators and consultants charged with handling sexual misconduct. But is the system getting any better? Faculty groups have declared that the new bureaucracy is infringing on academic freedom and judges have ruled that campus tribunals violate the rights of accused students, who are suing universities left and right.
Meanwhile, according to an in-depth report in Deadspin by Diana Moskowitz, victims of sexual assault are not well-served by the increasingly complex system, either. Universities continue to brush off complaints, especially when athletes are involved, with some administrators dismissing the resulting legal settlements as “a cost of doing business.”
As Freddie DeBoer notes, Moskowitz’s piece highlights the inherent limitations of universities—as private, corporate entities, with their own financial and marketing interests, and no special expertise in criminal investigations—in adjudicating violent crime:
That it’s made people care is a start, but expecting Yale, Harvard, and the like to become leaders in this area—especially when there are so few mechanisms for accountability built in—is little different from the calls for Roger Goodell to end domestic violence. Yes, universities have an obligation to provide an education free of discrimination. But that houses of academia were perceived to have any advantage in the field of preventing violence against women is a tribute more to their fantastic marketing than to their actual capabilities.
The fact is that at the highest levels, university administrators are not usually as misogynistic as their left-wing critics imagine or as PC as their right-wing critics imagine. They are merely corporate officers trying to advance the self-interest of multimillion dollar enterprises. And the interests of universities do not always align well the impartial administration of justice. They might, for example, throw the book at less affluent students accused of assault—even if the evidence is dubious—so that they can “improve” the statistics they show to Department of Education commissars. Meanwhile, they might be more willing to accept the consequences of going easy on high-profile sports stars who bring big money to the university’s athletic program and boost fundraising campaigns. And of course, they might just be altogether incompetent and arbitrary as they strain to comply with pressure from donors, pressure from activists, and the Department of Education’s competing directives.
This doesn’t mean that universities should have no role in handling complaints of misconduct. But it is a reminder that sexual assault should be primarily a matter for the criminal justice system, not for improvised campus bureaucracies. Not only is the justice system infinitely more competent at the substance of criminal procedure, it has far less incentive to pick favorites or stack the deck. The campaign to shift responsibility for handling sexual assault from police to campus bureaucrats is destined to make things worse for everyone involved.