Opinion editor Maggie Zellner sat down this week to discuss the recent changes to UNC’s sexual assault policies with former Student Attorney General Jon McCay. McCay addressed a number of concerns about the shift in the burden of proof, most notably the rights of the accused.
As someone who’s spent the past four years working on (and eventually leading) the student attorney general’s staff, Jon McCay is in a unique position to talk about the University’s recent changes to its sexual assault policy.
He started out defending and prosecuting cases under the old policy, served as attorney general under the interim policy and saw his successor sworn in days before the Faculty Council approved the new one.
When I begin to ask him why, exactly, it was necessary to shift the burden of proof from “beyond a reasonable doubt” to “a preponderance of evidence,” McCay first gives me some context about the nature of the evidence in sexual assault cases, which he says is crucial to understanding why they’re so different from anything else that comes through the honor system.
“It’s always ‘he said,’ ‘she said,” he explains. “It’s not like a plagiarism case where you can bring in emails, Google searches and drafts of a paper. There aren’t any witnesses; it’s not like a cheating case where someone can say they saw a student looking at someone else’s test.”