Monday, October 19, 2015

As federal policy turns campuses into court rooms, the statute of limitations becomes an issue.

At the University of California, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, now the prez, ponders whether there ought to be a time limit on when sex harassment charges can be brought against a prof. 
In this case, a well-known astronomer stepped down from his professorship, after the investigation of belated charges leaked and became international news. Napolitano says there should be a statute of limitations on such charges.  But critics counter that it's hard to charge when you're still a student.

The bigger issue in my mind is how far the fed will push colleges to become courts.  We now must investigate and adjudicate sexual assault charges.  This is "damned if you do, damned if you don't" task... one side or the other will be disappointed with a high likelihood of a lawsuit to follow.  

The lightning rod for much of this storm is the dean of students.  It once must have been fun to be the head of the student-life division of a college.  No longer... now the dean is the likely target of a suit, along with her institution, when for example an accused male student cries "foul" and files a defamation claim.

Being a campus cop, likewise, is no pleasure.  This is brought out in a story today in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Without a doubt:
  • Too much drinking takes place on college campuses
  • Sexual assault is a shameful fact of life at too many schools
  • Sexual harassment by faculty and staff should never be tolerated, and
  • Violence and crime must be deterred constantly, as in any other town or small city

All this being said, and accepting that the burden is not likely to be lifted from our shoulders anytime soon, we in higher education need to become a lot more savvy on the ways of law enforcement and adjudication... as well as the best practices in risk management to avoid subsequent litigation.

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