SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — A new policy change at California State Universities would require victims of sexual misconduct to be questioned with their alleged attacker in the room during a live hearing, San Jose State University announced in a campus-wide email Tuesday.
“I wouldn’t want to face my attacker, said San Jose State senior Jennifer Tapia. “What if I see that person on the street?”
The revised policy change essentially turns the classroom into a courtroom, some argue. Victim’s rights advocates worry the change would affect future complaints filed.
“It would make me less likely to come forward,” said Tapia.
The policy before the change involved an investigator making factual findings to determine if a student violated school policy. A student found in violation would then have a right to a hearing.
But now, the policy states an alleged victim and witnesses will be questioned during a live hearing with the suspected abuser in the room.
“This decision, if it stands, is going to impact public and private colleges, universities and maybe even secondary schools,” said retired Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell.
The change at the CSUs comes after a USC student accused of sexual assault sued the university after he was expelled. A judge in the case ruled that any student accused of sexual misconduct who faces expulsion or suspension has a right to a live hearing, especially when the credibility of the victim and witnesses is central to the case.
The judge ruled colleges could choose whether to use a hearing officer, the accused abuser or the accused abuser’s adviser to question the victim. CSU chose the hearing officer model.
Cordell said the arguments on both sides have merit, but that she could not argue with the judge’s ruling to apply due process to a college’s decision on a student’s future.
“Due process must prevail, that’s the cornerstone of a democracy,” said Cordell. “And for that reason, that’s why the judge ruled in the way that he did.”
SJSU student Hoon Cho said the new policy is fair because it will help incidents of false accusations.
“There are some cases where the victim does falsely accuse the guy, so I feel like in those situations, there’s opportunity for him to tell what is right and what is wrong,” he said.
But Tapia said not only does she disagree with victims having to come face to face with their abusers, she also doesn’t think they should be questioned.
“I would feel that my word doesn’t mean anything when I’m the victim,” she said.
The revised policy applies to pending sexual misconduct cases at San Jose State. Students can opt out of a live hearing and try to resolve the matter with the other party. School officials did not want to comment.
They plan to hold information sessions with students on April 9 and 17th.