January 25 2016
Advocates for due process on college campuses have come out in full force in the first months of 2016. Law professors, legislators, editorial boards and even a presidential candidate have stepped up to defend the constitutional rights of those accused of sexual assault on college campuses.
Stop Abusive and Violent Environments, an organization working to protect all students (both victims and the falsely accused), has detailed the advocacy in a press release sent Monday morning.
The year of due process advocacy kicked off on Jan. 8, during a panel at the American Association of Law Schools' annual conference in New York. Twelve law professors and advocates discussed campus sexual assault, and many on the panel spoke up for due process rights for accused students.
"'Rights' is a generous description of what these schools gave the accused," University of Miami law professor Tamra Rice Lave said.
On Jan. 11, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told an audience that campus rape accusations should be handled by law enforcement, because "Rape and assault is rape or assault whether it takes place on a campus or a dark street." This statement prompted several articles about Sanders' views on the matter versus Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio's, including a column by me. Shortly after, Rubio's staff put out a news release reaffirming his commitment to due process rights and said as president he would "swiftly move to stop the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights' assault against" those rights.
Also in January, more than 80 members of the American Law Institute signed a letter against a renewed draft of a sexual assault model penal code. The draft is still too similar to one the Washington Examiner had written about previously, and would criminalize nearly all sexual encounters.
The Independent Women's Forum, a right-leaning organization dedicated to women's issues, released a policy paper on how the anti-discrimination statute known as Title IX has been turned into a weapon on college campuses.
"While Title IX's language speaks to the need for equal opportunities for women and men in educational facilities, initially those enforcing the law turned the focus to creating equal outcomes, such as by requiring institutions' sports participation rates to mirror the gender breakdown of the student body," wrote Heather Madden, the groups advocacy projects manager.
Last week, a federal court in Kentucky ruled that campus hearings are "quasi-criminal" in nature, which should make a good argument going forward that students deserve due process rights. Also last week, the Oklahoman posted an editorial about the need for reform in campus sexual assault policies, calling the current model a "constitutionally dubious regime."
And Monday afternoon, Georgia State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, a Republican, will hold a hearing in his state about due process rights on college campuses, following a string of incidents at Georgia Tech. Ehrhart is presently up-in-arms over the suspension of a Georgia Tech fraternity that was accused of hurling racial slurs at an African-American woman, even though security footage show her walking in front of the building without reacting to anything. Also, the windows from which the slurs were said to be yelled from had been sealed shut for years.
Ehrhart is also angered over the treatment of several Georgia Tech students accused of sexual assault. One student had his request for a preliminary injunction dismissed, though the judge wrote that the adjudication process that led to his expulsion was "very far from an ideal representation of due process."
Another student was reinstated to the school after a back-and-forth appeals process left him in limbo. In each case, the evidence against the accused student consisted of an accusation and little else, yet these students were deemed rapists.
Due process advocates have a long year ahead of them, and will no doubt have to defend against wild claims of an epidemic of rape on college campuses. This year will most likely see the issue become even more toxic, as more students file lawsuits against their universities for denying them due process.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.