Vice President Joe Biden was in Illinois today talking about campus sexual assault. I agreed with almost everything he said. Why? Because he was discussing things that no one except the worst among us could disagree with.
Having sex with a woman who is passed out is rape. Of course. Beating a woman is wrong. Of course. Rapists should go to jail. Of course.
What Biden didn't discuss was that the issue of campus sexual assault isn't as simple as he makes it seem. The black and white examples he gave are not the norm on college campuses. There is no "discussion," as Biden claimed, about whether it's rape when a woman is passed out.
Where the discussion lies is in he said/she said situations where there's evidence and witnesses that say she was not passed out or incapacitated, and where the accuser appeared to be a willing participant until months after the encounter.
Biden even said that sexual assault is "punishable as a crime," yet even as he discussed the historic moves the Department of Education has made in the past few years, he made no mention of the fact that sexual assault on college campuses is no longer being treated as a crime.
Sexual assault – at least on college campuses – is now being treated as a disciplinary matter, just like plagiarism (something Biden has experience with).
Biden also said that campus rapists shouldn't just be facing expulsion, but "should go to jail." Absolutely. The problem is that if expulsion and jail are possibilities, as they are with crimes, then both accusers and accused should have due process rights. But that might cut down on the number of students suspended or expelled, as evidence and the presumption of innocence are less valued in disciplinary hearings than accusations are.
Biden played it safe by not addressing the current complexity of campus sexual assault – he avoided referring to the debunked 1-in-5 statistic about women raped on college campuses, and he didn't endorse California's terrible "yes means yes" law. In fact, he reasserted the old "no means no" mantra.
Having a conversation about campus sexual assault is necessary, but it needs to be an honest conversation rooted in reality, not hysteria.