New W.H. Campus Sexual Assault Guidelines

President Obama’s sexual assault task force marked its one-year anniversary last week, and released new guidelines for colleges to develop with law enforcement.

Just asking colleges and universities to work with local law enforcement when dealing with claims of sexual assault is a step in the right direction, as the American justice system is far more qualified to handle accusations than schools. Still, as I’ve written before, there is a role for colleges to play when it comes to handling sexual assault — namely as a support service for accusers as they go through the legal system.

But the new guidelines, called a memorandum of understanding, still allow schools to have their own legal system. And although the guidelines say their purpose is, in part, to “respect the legal rights of those accused of sexual assault,” the document poses a bias to schools by repeatedly referring to accusers as “victims,” and the accused as “alleged suspects” or “alleged offenders.” This terminology muddies the waters, creating a “guilty until proven innocent” mentality.