SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would codify college students' legal right to active counsel in campus sexual assault hearings was narrowly struck down in committee Tuesday.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 5-6 against a measure to send HB82 to the House floor after a hearing that lasted for more than two hours.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, explained that since her bill passed the same committee last year, the Utah System of Higher Education created a policy that does what her bill does: It permits students the right to active counsel during such proceedings.
However, she reasoned, "policies do not afford the same legal protections and represent the same force of law that a rule does or that the actual code does."
Coleman clarified that she was not before the committee to criticize the policy, but only to "make sure that in areas of certain civil rights that students have the protections afforded by law."
Speaking in support of the bill, Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, said: "OK, this (hypothetical) person has been accused and in a world where a college degree is more necessary, more valuable than perhaps ever before in our lifetimes. … What are the options of the accused?"
Ivory said when the system in place doesn't work, "it's very serious for the accused student as well."Comment on this story
Turner Bitton, executive director of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, argued against the bill.
"A student already has the right to have a nonactive adviser. What this does is create a courtroom-style brawl every time that there is an administrative proceeding," Bitton said.
Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, said he didn't want to subject victims to an environment that invited in lawyers who would treat the proceedings as criminal cases.
Ultimately the committee struck down the bill by one vote.