The way universities handle sexual misconduct cases could change, but opinions vary

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Updated: Nov. 17, 2018 at 10:08 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Proposed new rules on how universities handle sexual misconduct cases are riling victims' rights advocates, but defense attorneys say they protect the accused’s due process rights.

The New York Times reported that the new rules would only require universities to investigate sexual misconduct if a victim filed a formal complaint.

Under the plan, schools also must meet a higher burden of proof before disciplining a student and attorneys for the accused would be allowed to question victims.

“It will definitely have a chilling impact,” said attorney Elizabeth Jubin Fujiwara.

“Basically, you’re asking someone who has been sexually assaulted or raped to come in and sit in the same small room as the rapist. And this would scare anyone.”

Former University of Hawaii student Julie Bocock-Bliss said agrees with Fujiwara.

“I just feel like victims of that kind of thing, they have enough hurdles to overcome. So anything that makes them feel less safe ... I think that would be detrimental,” she said.

But attorney Jeffrey Hawk said he’s in favor of more due process.

Three years ago, he represented former University of Hawaii-Manoa student Tyler Strong, who was expelled even though he was acquitted of raping an 18-year-old female student.

His attorney said the process used to kick him out was one-sided. He said the university based its decision on a recorded interview of Strong’s accuser, who they weren’t able to cross examine.

“We really didn’t know what the accusation was ... and that’s just preposterous,” said Hawk. “It really ruined him. He was an A-student.”

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