Draft of Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Threatens Due Process Rights on Campus
WASHINGTON, October 27, 2011—Congressional legislation reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) may include new provisions sharply reducing due process protections for college students accused of sexual assault, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has learned. A draft of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 circulated by Senator Patrick Leahy's office effectively requires that colleges and universities receiving federal funding must employ a "preponderance of the evidence" standard—a 50.01%, "more likely than not" evidentiary burden—when adjudicating student complaints concerning sexual assault. The draft also includes a provision requiring universities to allow alleged victims of sexual assault to appeal the results of college disciplinary hearings, subjecting accused students to a form of "double jeopardy" not allowed in our nation's courts.
Update, November 14: Threat to Student Due Process Rights Dropped from Draft of Violence Against Women Act
Responding to criticism from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and others, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will drop a provision in a draft of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 that would have required college students accused of sexual assault to be tried under the weak "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof.