Colleges May Turn Date Rape Allegations Over to Regional Consortia, Says Professor John Banzhaf

Public Interest Law Professor John Banzhaf Cites Irreconcilable Conflicts of Interest, Huge Costs, and Possible Cutoffs of Federal Funds as Prompting Colleges to Consider Regional Consortia to Handle Allegations of Campus Date Rape.

Washington, DC, June 02, 2015 --( Recent articles in many leading papers highlight the problems colleges face now that they have been required to deal with rape allegations.

Faced with irreconcilable conflicts of interest, inexcusable delays, and fear of a total cutoff of federal funds or huge judgments in courts, are looking for alternatives, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

One approach being seriously considered is to turn the investigations over to a consortium of universities in the same region which could handle the tasks with the expertise most can't afford to maintain and the impartiality which they cannot possibly achieve, says Banzhaf.

Banzhaf, widely credited with this compromise, notes that the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that: "Some college leaders are quietly talking about other alternatives. Could they pool their resources and create regional tribunals — staffed by legal experts — to handle rape allegations?"

It also points out the "inherent conflicts" which occur when colleges do the job themselves. Having too many guilty findings and it can be "branded a 'rape haven,'" but being perceived as not having enough can lead to a investigation and possible loss of federal funding.

But, as Banzhaf has noted, colleges in the same city could pool their resources to establish a private SVU-type consortium, which would have the resources to employ experienced sex crime investigators who would have none of the inherent conflicts of interests or appearances of impropriety which individual colleges cannot escape.

As U.S. News said in an article entitled Is this the Solution to the Campus Rape Conundrum? - Could Universities Share Investigators like a Library Consortium Shares Books,?: "To appease the concerns of both victims and the students they accuse... John Banzhaf, a public interest law professor at George Washington University – is backing a solution he says would also benefit schools struggling to support the resources required to internally investigate sexual assault."

It continues: “Banzhaf's proposal... would be to set up an independent organization funded and shared by schools in a geographic area... Colleges in a specific area... would pool funding to finance a team of experts fully trained in investigating campus sexual assault.

“Such regional consortia could easily afford to have to keep on staff two or three or even four people because they are covering 30 to 40 colleges. They would have the training, they would have the expertise, to interview the victims fairly and properly, to get and preserve the evidence, and to do so in a completely impartial way," Banzhaf said.

Earlier, the Washington Examiner, in Four Better Ideas to Fight Campus Sexual Assault, reported: "Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University Law School and one of the leading voices on the issue of due process, provided the Examiner an extensive proposal for reforming how colleges handle sexual assault claims. As for letting colleges and universities handle the cases exclusively, Banzhaf said that sexual assault is too serious an issue. 'These system(s) are designed primarily to handle minor infractions (e.g., underage drinking, minor mischief, brawls, etc.), which can easily be investigated by campus police... because the evidence is usually pretty clear,'" he said.

"But for sexual assault, campuses need specially trained investigators who follow standardized procedures/protocols..." Banzhaf noted that "virtually no campus has enough sexual assault cases to employ a trained professional full-time. Banzhaf instead believes that... schools could establish a ‘consortium’ - an independent entity with training that would investigate the accusations."

‘If prosecution was warranted, the consortium could also perform that function . . . - this would be similar to organizations which now provide arbitration determinations . . .,’ he added. ‘Alternatively, the consortium could prosecute the case before an existing arbitration organization or panel.’ Such a proposal would ensure, Banzhaf said, that the matter was ‘adjudicated properly without any possible bias.’”

National Public Radio also reported favorably on the idea, saying: "John Banzhaf, a George Washington University law professor, says schools who use their own staff to decide these cases always will be suspect... An even better idea, Banzhaf says, would be to create a totally independent consortium of professionals to both investigate and judge cases. Under such a program, he says, 'there can be no thought that favoritism is being given because someone is a big athlete or that daddy's a big donor, and the standards will be the same across the board — to me it's a win-win-win for everybody.'"

When experts were asked by the New York Times to address the problem, Prof Banzhaf suggested the following: "One possible way to assure women effective and sensitive investigations, while protecting men from unfair procedures... might be to have all investigations and adjudications handled not by individual colleges, but by consortia of colleges that could afford to employ experienced sex-crime detectives to impartially investigate all allegations, and panels of retired judges to adjudicate guilt whenever the evidence warrants."
George Washington University Law School
Public Interest Law Professor John Banzhaf
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