Colleges have no business investigating rapes.
In the past week, The Post and Courierís Andrew Knapp has written about two sexual-assault reports at the College of Charleston in which the charges were largely dismissed for a lack of evidence.
That may be an accurate assessment of these cases.
But it sure doesnít look good.
Fact is, no matter how well-trained campus police may be, those officers donít report to the public ó they work for the college administration.
The administrationís job is to protect the college and its image.
And rapes donít help that.
There is just way too much room for a potential conflict of interest, particularly at a school like the College of Charleston, where this sort of thing happens way too often.
In April, a 19-year-old woman claimed she was sexually assaulted by four members of the C of C baseball team.
The school led a six-month investigation that ultimately ended because of ďinsufficient evidence.Ē There was some disciplinary action for a couple of students, but no criminal charges. Which is odd.
In October 2011, a student claimed a man raped her in a C of C dorm. Campus police arrested the man, but prosecutors called the case weak and didnít pursue it.
The parents of these women claim the campus police arenít equipped to handle these types of cases, implying that they didnít investigate correctly. But mainly, they donít trust the college.
Who can blame them?
Self-policing has been a controversial subject on college campuses for decades. Schools around the country often are accused of under-reporting campus crime for public relations purposes.
And no doubt, the College of Charleston could use some good PR.
Between 2009 and 2011, the school had 18 reports of sexual assault. Clemson, with nearly 20,000 students, had four in the same time period. And the University of South Carolina, with three times the student population of C of C, had seven.
Something is wrong here.
Fix the law
In 2007 the Legislature passed the Jessica Horton Act.
The idea was to get outside law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation of serious crimes on college campuses.
Unfortunately, the wording of the Horton Act is typical legalese mumbo jumbo, which the College of Charleston can justifiably interpret to mean it should take the lead on sexual-assault cases. Because thatís basically what it says.
There is no evidence that the College of Charleston is trying to sweep this problem under the rug. But school officials, more than anyone else, should want to make sure that perception isnít out there, because perception is all too often reality.
Until the Legislature amends state law, the college should go out of its way to involve Charleston police in serious criminal investigations and re-examine its position that there are no policies that need to be changed.
If youíre averaging three rape reports a semester, something needs to change.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or read his blog at blog.postandcourier.com/brians-blog.
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