Jason Casares, the IU associate dean of students and sitting president of the Association for Student Conduct Administration, has been put on paid administrative leave after a public accusation of sexual assault of his colleague, Jill Creighton.
If this accusation is true, it is a terrible breach of professional trust and an abhorrent and brutal crime for which he should be punished and shunned.
The problem is we don’t know if it’s true or not.
In fact, an independent investigator hired by the ASCA found no evidence it was true, and the Texas police have not acted on her case in any way.
While nothing has been confirmed, and official authorities have found no reason to charge him with a crime, Casares is publicly vilified as a sexual criminal and forced out of the ASCA.
Why did this happen? Twitter.
On Feb. 3, Creighton posted her open letter to the ASCA on Twitter. She said she felt the police had ignored her and the ASCA had stonewalled her. She had nowhere else to go but the court of public opinion.
This “trial by tweet” has become a growing trend in cases of sexual assault where physical evidence is nearly impossible to come by and he-said-she-said cases never make it to court.
The problem with this approach is it is closer to a vigilante lynch mob than a fair criminal proceeding. It has powerful consequences for those accused, whether or not the accusations are accurate. In the United States, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and this principle is the foundation for our justice system. On social media, it is often whoever swings first wins regardless of evidence or context.
Case in point: the story of Paul Nungesser. Nungesser was accused of rape last year, and his accuser Emma Sulkowicz created a brilliant social media campaign around the story by carrying her mattress around for the rest of the year in a protest.
This prompted national media coverage and millions of tweets, all of which ruined Nungesser’s life. He received death threats, his friends ostracized him and he couldn’t find a job after graduation.
Later, the University wasn’t able to find enough evidence to expel Nungesser, and he is now suing Columbia University on various charges.
While I support everyone’s right to free speech, we, as a society, should not encourage this social media mob mentality.
We should view Twitter accusations as desperate and often unfounded cries for attention. They are deliberate attempts to circumvent our legitimate justice system where everyone is assumed innocent until proven otherwise.
Casares might be guilty, but he might not. Regardless of what percentage of sexual assault accusations are false, until we see evidence in a court of law he deserves the assumption of innocence.
A previous version of this article stated Nungesser sued Sulkowicz and Casares was "out of a job" as a result of these actions. The IDS regrets these errors.