After writing a scathing criticism of Title IX practices in the Feb. 13 Oracle, I received an email from Allison Vetter, Title IX coordinator, inviting me to a meeting in her office. I accepted.
I ain’t gonna lie. I was nervous, but I remembered the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “God will not have his work made manifest through cowards.” At 8:30 a.m. Feb. 20, I arrived at the meeting prepared to battle a fire-breathing dragon in defense of free speech.
What I found was a nice lady with wide eyes sitting behind a desk. I thought she might be more nervous about the confrontation than I was.
Perhaps she’d been made to feel vulnerable by the sharp tongue of an overzealous student journalist. I felt like an asshole.
I now find it appropriate to give voice to Vetter’s thoughts on the issue.
In my article, I quoted Vetter as saying “Rape is the only crime where the police don’t just automatically believe you when you report it.They call it ‘alleged’ rape.”
She said my quote was accurate, but would like for it to be known that it was said under the context of why underreporting is a problem for law enforcement.
Vetter also said she was afraid my article might convey the misconception that it is campus policy to believe every accuser. “I was worried that the implication was that someone accuses someone and we kick them out of school,” Vetter said.
To be clear, that wasn’t the implication. I was making reference to the “believe them all” culture that has given rise to a set of policies that many see as unfair.
These policies were set in motion in 2013 when the Obama administration sent out the “dear colleague” letter to school officials. It forced universities to use a lower burden of proof, when investigating college sexual harassment and assault cases, than is used in the real world.
Preponderance of evidence, the lowest burden of proof, is what they’re required to use. That means that it only has to seem likely that the accusation is correct, rather than proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is used in criminal cases by the U.S. legal system.
Preponderance of evidence is used in civil cases. “Our role is to protect civil rights,” said Elaine Kneebone, general counsel and chief compliance officer, who also made an appearance at the meeting. “They are distinctive. They are two different processes.”
My opinion is that sexual harassment and sexual assault are very serious criminal charges which can now ruin a students life without ever having been charged with a crime, but I’m not blaming the Henderson staff.
I think Dr. Vetter is a good person trying her best to do what’s right. It’s the policy itself that many people find to be flawed. Betsy DeVos, secretary of education of the United States, is one such person. She has rescinded Obama’s dear colleague letter and is fighting to have the higher burden of proof restored.
While Obama’s concern for women who are sexually harassed and afraid to come forward seems completely justifiable, his system is now creating victims on the other side of the board. The nation looks toward the upcoming policy changes with interest.
No matter what happens at the national level, things are well here. While lawsuits have been filed all over the United States, Henderson has not been brought up on a single case of false accusation. That’s a pretty good record. Well done, Dr. Vetter.
“We provide support to both parties. We treat both fairly and after the process is over I still keep in touch with them.” -Allison Vetter