If, in good faith, a university seeks to protect its students from sexual assault, it should have the right to do so.
The Fraternity & Sorority Political Action Committee, also known as FratPAC, is lobbying Congress to make it more difficult for universities to investigate sexual assault allegations.
According to Bloomberg News, the North-American Interfraternity Conference, which represents 74 fraternities, and the National Panhellenic Conference, which represents 26 sororities, will join in FratPAC’s lobbying efforts.
A university has a duty to protect its students and to enforce discipline. In exercising this duty, a university must be fair and conscientious, and a university that behaves unwisely or unfairly should be held fully accountable for its actions. However, students would be poorly served if their school’s hands were tied.
If a student were caught with illegal substances or committing an act of violence, we would fairly expect the student to be punished by both the law and the university. So it seems outrageous to suggest that sexual assault should be handled differently.
Further, if the accusations of sexual assault requiring investigation are so widespread as to pose a threat to the average student, perhaps there is a deeper problem. The problem is not the universities that seek quick and just resolutions to these issues. Instead, the problem is the culture that spawns the assaults themselves.
If fraternities and sororities are worried about their reputations, they would do better to stand up for the victims, not the accused. They would do better to be open, honest and forthcoming with information to help right these painful wrongs.
While Ben Bradlee was executive editor of the Washington Post, the Post published a series of articles by Janet Cooke that earned a Pulitzer. The series was titled “Jimmy’s World.” It was about an 8-year-old heroin addict, and it turned out that Jimmy was entirely an invention of Cooke’s. This revelation didn’t come about until after the Post received the Pulitzer.
Under Bradlee’s direction, the Post returned the Pulitzer and began an immediate investigation.
“The only saving grace in the Janet Cooke scandal is that the world doesn’t know anything about the Janet Cooke case that the Washington Post didn’t tell them,” Bradlee said.
If FratPAC is concerned about the reputations of the organizations they represent, they’d do well to take a lesson from Bradlee and the Post. They should own up to the scandal and investigate it openly, honestly and fairly.