Indiana Daily Student

EDITORIAL: Two sides to every story

Trial by Twitter isn't justice

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.

Brian Anderson

We shouldn't have to question IU

IU has a sexual assault problem.

IU Bloomington’s Community Attitudes and Experiences with Sexual Assault Survey found that 17 percent of undergraduate women had experienced attempted or completed penetrative sexual assault while at IU. That’s one in six undergraduate women on this campus. In 2012, IU was fourth in the nation for forcible sexual assaults .

Now, IU’s own title IX director, Jason Casares, president of the Association for Student Conduct Administration, has been accused of sexual assault of his colleague, Jill Creighton.

College campuses in general have an unimpressive history of dealing with the sad reality of sexual assault. It is even more disturbing to know one of our coordinators is under investigation for the crime he is supposed to defend against.

The press may never have all the necessary evidence to say what happened that night without reservation. This is often the case for sexual assault.

We do know something happened that could be construed as sexual assault by the victim. We know Creighton was drinking and said she felt Casares took advantage of her.

The court of law requires something it almost never gets in cases of sexual assault. It is because of that reality we must plan for the worst. It is IU’s job to make sure students can trust their administration.

As a student on this campus and as a woman, I believe if someone is going to stand as a judge against sexual assault, there cannot be a question of their understanding of what consent is and the destruction that results from sexual assault.

If I can’t expect the person making decisions about how sexual assault is treated on this campus to be clear of suspicion, then I can’t trust the University to protect me.

While there is still a question of his violence towards women, he should remain suspended from his position.

This question may not have ever been brought to the attention of the campus if not for Creighton coming forward on Twitter.

In many cases, victims of sexual assault feel they can’t tell their story for fear of being vilified. The media’s immediate reaction often is to doubt and blame women. No one can forget the Steubenville, Ohio, case in which commentators lamented the tragedy of the young rapists’ lives being ruined.

And yet, as dangerous and fickle as the court of public opinion can be, sometimes it is the only court sexual assault victims have left to turn to.

At that point, it is no longer just about justice for one crime, but frequently about preventing another, as well as adding to the exhaustingly long narrative of injustice to sexual assault victims.

It doesn’t matter how the question was raised, just if it is being answered.

As a student on this campus, I would rather know if I can trust the people in charge of combating the serious sexual assault problem at IU. I would rather there be no question.

Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.

Powered by Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2023 Indiana Daily Student