In 2010, the Center for Public Integrity reported that victims of sexual misconduct on campus face “a frustrating search for justice.” On April 4, 2011, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a guidance document about sexual violence on campuses, setting standards for what universities must do in order to comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972’s prohibition of sex discrimination in education. In the years that followed, students in many universities brought complaints against their institutions for failing to respond appropriately to reported rapes. The OCR itself initiated many more investigations; as of August 2015, 129 universities, including many of the most prominent in the country, were under investigation. Others have already agreed to settlements.
As universities have adopted policies in the name of meeting the OCR’s guidance, however, a powerful backlash has arisen. In a few highly publicized cases, accusations have been rebutted by later evidence. The policies adopted by some universities have been sharply criticized by faculty, most prominently at both Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, where large numbers of professors of law raised concerns about due process for accused students. Some of the critics have been among the best known feminist and women’s rights scholars in the country.
How can justice and fairness best be served when a person claims to be sexually victimized by a fellow member of a university community? What is the proper role of the university? How can the rights of victim and accused be not just balanced but maintained? The question is roiling campuses across the country. Ours is not the only campus where it is the topic for the 2015 Constitution Day program.
BIO: Cynthia Grant Bowman, J.D., Ph.D.
Cynthia Grant Bowman, J.D., Ph.D., is the Dorothea S. Clarke Professor of Law at Cornell University. She was Professor of Law and Gender Studies at Northwestern University before joining the faculty at Cornell. She has published widely on issues involving the law and women, including women in the legal profession, sexual harassment, and legal remedies for adult survivors of childhood sex abuse. She also published one of the earliest texts on feminist legal theory, Feminist Jurisprudence, which is now in its fourth edition with co-authors. Few speakers have as much standing from which to criticize the policy and its implementation.
BIO: Howard Kallem, J.D.
Howard Kallem J.D. served for nineteen years in the D.C. Regional Office of the Office for Civil Rights, 15 of them as chief regional attorney, before becoming Title IX Compliance Coordinator at the University of North Carolina in 2013 and then Director of Title IX Compliance at Duke University in 2014. Before joining the OCR, he served for 14 years with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Few speakers have similar standing and experience to address the reasons for the OCR’s policy and universities’ responses.