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North Carolina group weighs in on campus sexual assault cases

The University of North Carolina incorporates a large number of learning institutions across the state, including all of the state’s public campuses. A number of those schools are now closely focused upon a matter that has become a high-profile issue following a recent federal inquiry.

That inquiry, brought as a federal investigation by the United States Education Department’s Office of Civil Right, is squarely focused on acts of sexual violence, including sexual assault allegations.

Federal investigators’ probe into the state’s universities commenced after several female university students attending UNC-Chapel Hill alleged that the school failed to accurately report and properly investigate assault cases.

Related events flowed from those contentions, including charges being brought by North Carolina authorities earlier this year against one school’s police chief for failure to deal adequately with a variety of campus-based criminal allegations.

Another result has been the forming of a Campus Security Initiative, which was implemented last autumn and melds together campus administrators, students, faculty members and law enforcement officials.

Following a study of and discussions concerning campus crimes being committed in the state, initiative members recently released a number of recommendations. One of those centrally relates to student involvement in disciplinary hearings focusing on sex-related matters, with the initiative recommending that student participation on panels adjudicating sexual assault cases be curtailed.

Other recommendations have also been suggested, all aimed toward establishing best practices for training, investigating and dealing responsibly with sexual violence on the state’s college campuses.

The initiative is certainly merited, as well as being timely. Its efficacy will ultimately be determined in large part by due consideration of whether its proposals help protect victims of violence and also adequately safeguard the legal interests of persons alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct.

Source: WRAL.com, “Report, “UNC system should remove students from sex assault hearings,” author uncited, July 31, 2014

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