Activists have been saying for some time there's a rape epidemic on college campuses, and a few years ago President Obama's Department of Education decided to do something about it. The department sent a “guidance” letter to schools across America, threatening to withdraw federal funding unless these institutions dealt with sexual assault as the government saw fit.
This led to universities setting up their own court systems, in effect, to deal with what is elsewhere treated as a violent crime. However, unlike actual courts, many procedural safeguards were left out of the equation.
Students were now facing tribunals without the guidance of an attorney, without a chance to confront their accuser, without the ability to introduce relevant evidence and without other traditional elements of due process. In addition, these courts require the lowest standard of proof to find the accused responsible.
"Fox New Reporting: The Truth About Sex & College," premiering this Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, looks at this present-day phenomenon, concentrating on a handful of cases that demonstrate how the system works.
At Occidental College, Fox News looks into the secret record of their “John Doe” case. Two students had sex while intoxicated. Even though the woman did not at first refer to the incident as rape, she changed her mind after talking to a college counselor. “John” found himself brought up on charges of assault and branded the campus rapist. He went through a Kafkaesque proceeding and was kicked out of college, scrambling to find another school that would take him.
Then there's the stranger-than-fiction story of Emma Sulkowicz at Columbia University. She had sexual relations with fellow student Paul Nungesser and, several months later, accused him of rape.” The college investigated and did not find Emma’s story credible. So she started a performance art project she called “Carry that Weight,” for which she dragged around a mattress at all times to call attention to her claim. She became a celebrity, and was even invited to the State Of The Union Address, representing rape victims. Meanwhile, Nungesser received death threats and lived in constant fear for his safety.
At the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Corey Mock was accused of sexual assault and found not responsible. Then, with no new evidence, the school suddenly did an about face and declared Mock was, in fact, responsible, and expelled him. He took his case outside the academic world and into a state court, which overturned the result after finding the school -- in a reversal of normal process -- had improperly required Mock to prove his innocence.
Though the details of these cases are often shocking, they are not necessarily surprising. The systems being set up on campuses are only following what activists have long desired. And advocates are pushing, with some success, for federal and state legislatures to codify much of this process.
So far these advocates have held the moral high ground in this debate, but some are starting to question if they've gone too far. Are colleges setting up star chambers that are more about politics than justice? Are schools even equipped to deal with this issue? And are legislatures rushing in to solve a problem that could use a little more debate?
Fox News asks the tough questions in the special Fox News Reporting: The Truth About Sex & College, anchored by Martha MacCallum. The show it premieres Saturday, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. ET. It also airs Sunday Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET.