Fault Lines
11 December 2017

Georgia’s HB 51 Will Compound The Campus Sexual Assault Hysteria

February 6, 2017 (Fault Lines) — Did Georgia’s legislators sit down, look at the dysfunction caused by college campuses taking the lead in criminal investigations as per the Executive’s “Dear Colleague” effort, and decide to find ways to make matters worse? Of course they didn’t, but Georgia’s pending House Bill 51 will do just that, despite anyone’s worst best of intentions. There’s something about good intentions and paving the way to hell . . .

Trump’s favorite “fake news” site CNN.com reports on how a new law would require every employee of a postsecondary institution to snitch to the cops, should an employee receive “information which would lead such individual to believe that a crime which is a felony”:

The bill requires certain school employees to report possible felonies, such as sexual assault allegations, to law enforcement. The proposal effectively sidesteps university hearings, sometimes called Title IX hearings after the federal civil rights law that mandates them. Under the proposed law, a school disciplinary hearing can only take place if a criminal investigation has been launched, a key departure from how things currently work.

It’s a position that clashes with state and federal law as well as best practices for a trauma-centered approach to helping sexual assault survivors. The school process is far from perfect; that much is clear from the ever-growing pile of lawsuits against schools over their handling of sexual misconduct cases. But for many it’s preferable to a lengthy, invasive criminal inquiry for everyone involved.

Let’s start with the nuts and bolts of HB 51, how one of its provisions makes every single school employee a chivato, and it assumes that said employee has a working knowledge of criminal law, all at the same time. Subsection (b) of the bill states the following:

Every official or employee of a postsecondary institution in this state who receives  information which would lead such individual to believe that a crime which is a felony under the laws of this state has been committed by or against a student of such postsecondary institution or was committed in or on property owned, leased, or operated by such postsecondary institution shall promptly report such crime to the appropriate law enforcement agency of the jurisdiction in which the postsecondary institution is located or to the district attorney of the judicial circuit in which such postsecondary institution is located and provide all evidence within such official’s or employee’s knowledge and possession to such law enforcement agency or district attorney. (Emphasis added.)

That’s quite longwinded and not reader-friendly, but good writing skills were never a requirement for serving as a legislator. This provision: (i) assumes that school employees can accurately determine when a crime has been committed, and (ii) requires employees to sprint to the nearest precinct to spill the beans and tell the cops what they know and how they know it regarding the crime.

In an age where the triumvirate of self-righteousness, feelz and violence, trump (no pun) reason and adherence to the rule law in college campuses, this is grossly irresponsible. Should a residential supervisor overhear a conversation about something anything that he believes constitutes a felony, he would be required to report it to law enforcement.

This is regardless of what the “survivor” wants to do, and one can only picture the incessant eye-rolling on the part of the cops when these heroes begin to come forward, in droves. “You say you heard Jennifer say that her friend Melissa heard that Samantha was raped? Sigh, that’s hearsay.”

Aside from the fact that finite law enforcement resources were needlessly wasted in that likely scenario, that’s as good as it would get. Should the cops decide to go investigate, anything can happen. People may get hurt once police get involved, and there’s no “white knight” exception to getting your ass kicked, even if all you’re doing is reporting what you believe to be a crime.

Proponents of this bill believe that criminal investigations fall within the province of law enforcement, and not collegiate star chambers panels. The bill also has the commendable provision that no school may take action against a student unless and until he is found guilty or pleads out to a felony in a criminal court.

But the better way for schools to handle these cases is to simply not handle them at all: just stay out of it and let the wheels of justice seek the truth do whatever they’re supposed to do. Your humanities professor is no more of a judge than your receptionist is a crime scene investigator.

Plus, there’s always something rotten about compelling “victims” to become state’s evidence when they don’t want to. It reeks of authoritarianism.  Speaking of compulsory testimony, it’s usually dictatorships that foster a culture of snitching on one’s fellow primate.

That’s why so many Cuban nationals who fled the Castro regime, but then became entangled in America’s criminal justice system, are disappointed to learn of the substantial benefits heaped on those who cooperate with the government and against their confederates. There’s no moral equivalency between the two systems by any stretch of the imagination, but that attitude towards cooperators reminds them of precisely the mentality that they left home to escape.

Notice that I adorned the words victim and survivor with quotation marks? That’s because no one should be considered to be a victim or survivor unless and until her aggressor is found guilty of a crime beyond and to the exclusion of reasonable doubt. Reasonable People may differ as to who qualifies as a survivor, but those big marble structures called “courthouses” are there for a reason.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

*

*

By submitting a comment here you grant this site a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution.

  • Brian Cowles
    6 February 2017 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    On the other hand, I’d kind of like to know what else the state legislature could do. The “Dear Colleaugue” letter is a federal executive mandate, so they can’t legally stop the star chambers from occurring. If an end run around the problem makes it worse, and confronting the problem directly is impossible, should the state legislature just stand by and wring its hands at the President?

    I apologize if that sounds sarcastic or aggressive, because it’s not meant to be.