The Corner

Education

Restoring Fairness in Campus Disciplinary Proceedings

The Obama Administration was a full-employment opportunity for leftist zealots of all kinds, and especially so the Department of Education. People such as Russlyn Ali and Catherine Lhamon were eager to use federal power to advance the goals of radical feminism and to help Democrats win by mobilizing lots of female voters. That’s how the nation was stuck with “guidance” letters telling college and university officials to follow procedures in campus disciplinary cases that were heavily stacked against accused men.

But now the tide has turned. Secretary DeVos has rescinded the “guidance,” and states are considering legislation to ensure that all students get the benefit of fair hearings. In this Martin Center article, Shannon Watkins examines the new landscape. One crucial feature is that a great many colleges and universities still do not guarantee students a fair hearing. That was the big finding in a recent FIRE report. Watkins writes of that report,

Sadly, none of the universities’ adjudication policies received an “A” grade. Among its findings, FIRE reported that only 42 percent of universities require investigators or “fact-finders” to be impartial. Additionally, in the investigation of sexual misconduct cases, 79 percent of the universities met very few due process standards and received either a “D” or an “F” grade.

Merely rescinding the Department’s “guidance” won’t help accused students at schools where the officials, in obedience to “progressive” thinking, are intent on continuing the unfair procedures of the Obama years. For example, Davidson College’s president, Carol Quillen, insists that a women must be believed when she levies an accusation of sexual assault, and yet doesn’t see how that is inconsistent with fairness to the accused. Watkins responds,

Quillen overlooks the fact that there is an important difference between showing compassion to an alleged victim and unconditionally accepting an accuser’s claims. And she is hardly alone in academia. It is unfortunate that those who hold such influential positions in academia suggest that respecting one student’s rights may be in tension with showing empathy to another.

Quillen also overlooks, I would add, the fact that in quite a few cases, it has been demonstrated that the woman fabricated her story for revenge, for social standing, or for other reasons. The cliché that women don’t lie about rape is simply false. Some do, and it’s hard to get at the truth if the adjudicators are told that they should believe the accuser.

In sum, there is still a long way to go in undoing the damage that has been done. Watkins commends the FIRE report to trustees and alumni, who should grill school officials as to the fairness of their procedures. She also recommends that students join the FIRE network, which has done great things in fighting back against all sorts of violations of student rights.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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