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A Word About KU’s Title IX Investigation

There’s a bit of controversy going on over in Lawrence right now. But let’s at least be honest about it.

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Why would a K-State blog publish this article? We despise KU, but let’s at least be fair about it.

On Thursday, the Kansas City Star published an article detailing the findings of KU’s campus investigation into sexual assault complaints from two female student-athletes. Highly summarized, the university found, by a preponderance of the evidence standard, that a football player engaged in “non-consensual sex” with one of the women. He was expelled from school, banned from campus for 10 years, and ordered to have no contact with either of his victims.

The phrase in the previous paragraph is in quotations for a reason. It’s the phrase used in KU’s report, and the Star also used it. Check the responses to the Star’s tweet here, or the comments on the article linked above, to see that this caused no small amount of controversy.

When you write an article like this, here is where you usually pause to offer some sort of self-serving statement about how you take sexual assault seriously or something of that sort. I’ll pass. You can judge me on my own merits.

Simply put, a campus Title IX investigation is not the formal legal system. The goal is an extrajudicial investigation that protects campus victims under a lower burden of proof and with less serious consequences for the accused.* It’s a heavily criticized system that is subject to abuse on both sides.

*This is an important point. In the criminal-justice system, the accused is afforded a number of due process rights, and for damn good reasons. We shouldn’t throw people in cages without a very good reason. While expulsion from campus is no minor punishment, it’s demonstrably less serious than losing your liberty.

But in this case, it actually looks like the campus investigation system worked. KU investigated separate complaints by two individuals and expelled the accused. Put the other allegations in their lawsuits aside for the moment. I’m not addressing them, because they’re allegations that are, as of now, without public factual support. In this case, a student who we have good reason to believe is a bad dude was expelled from campus.

So why the uproar? Because KU and the Star called it “non-consensual sex,” not rape. But they did so for a damn good reason. Go back and read the first article linked above.

The accused was not charged with a crime by the Douglas County District Attorney. It goes without saying, then, that the accused was not convicted of a crime.

Rape has a specific definition under Kansas law. To say that an individual raped someone else means that they committed this act and were convicted of a crime for it. The district attorney determined there was insufficient evidence to charge, so the accused wasn’t charged and, obviously, wasn’t convicted.**

**I haven’t seen the evidence, so I won’t pass judgment on the district attorney’s decision.

Regardless, this is why KU and the Star wrote what they did. Not because they are whitewashing rape. Not because they are biased in favor of KU. But because if they wrote that the accused raped the victim, then they would be sued. And they would lose. They would have knowingly made a false statement about an individual and thereby damaged his reputation.

None of this prevented the online outrage machine from swinging into action. Scipio said it best, so I’ll quote him here: outrage is a cheap currency. Rape is an abomination, but let’s apply the term honestly.