Possible College Sexual Assault Changes Under Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s presidency likely means changes in areas where the federal government has seen its role expand in recent years.

A former federal prosecutor considered the impact of the Donald Trump presidency on sexual assault response procedures at colleges recently.

Shanlon Wu, who worked at the Department of Justice as a federal sex crimes prosecutor, wrote that he expects major changes in federal guidelines under Trump in a Washington Post editorial Dec. 14.

The theme in many of Wu’s predictions is a more conservative interpretation of the federal government’s role in the sexual assault process at college. We’ve summarized Wu’s three predictions below.

1. Raising the sexual assault burden of proof standard.

College disciplinary boards must currently adhere to the preponderance of evidence standard to find an accused student responsible for sexual assault. That means boards must find a student guilty if the available evidence suggests it is “more likely than not” that a sexual assault occurred.

Wu speculated that the Department of Education may move to the “clear and convincing” standard to punish accused students.

2. Greater police involvement in campus sexual assaults.

Wu also predicts changes in the role that local law enforcement agencies will play in response to sexual assaults on campus under Trump. Investigations into sexual assault reports may be exclusively handled by police, Wu says, and court rulings could dictate university officials’ decisions on disciplining accused students.

“Thus, schools may be forced to give formal weight to the outcomes of criminal investigations and criminal cases instead of the current insistence on ignoring any non-campus proceedings,” Wu says.

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3. Lawyers will be more involved in colleges’ sexual assault disciplinary processes.

In keeping with the idea of sexual assaults in college as a law enforcement issue, Wu predicts that campus disciplinary procedures will be handled more like formal legal proceedings. A consequence of that thinking would be an expanded role for lawyers like Wu, who are currently not allowed to speak during student hearings on campus.

“All of these changes reflect a more conservative view that sexual assaults on campus are no different than sexual assaults occurring anywhere else,” Wu says.

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