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September 14 2015

Democrat Congressman: Let's Not Get Hung-Up Over Guilt or Innocence in Campus Sex Assault Allegations

Charlotte Hays

So here's a new idea: let's suspend even innocent men if they are accused of sexual assault on campus.

Rep. Jared Polis, a California Democrat, proposes just that. The Daily Caller reported:

Colorado Rep. Jared Polis supported draconian measures to deal with campus sexual assault during a House hearing on Thursday, saying that he backs a “reasonable likelihood” standard in which a vast majority of students accused of sexual assault would be kicked out of school even if they were innocent.

“If I was running [a private university], I might say, ‘Well, you know even if there’s a 20 to 30 percent chance that it happened, I would want to remove this individual,'” Polis, a Democrat, said during a line of questioning with Joseph Cohn, the policy director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, during a hearing for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Cohn responded by saying that Polis’ proposal would not apply to public institutions, which have stricter due process compliance requirements. Universities are generally allowed to punish students accused of sexual assault if a preponderance of evidence — or a greater than 50 percent certainty — exists suggesting they are guilty.

“It seems like we ought to provide more of a legal framework then that allows a reasonable likelihood standard or a preponderance of evidence standard,” Polis said.

Elsewhere Polis was quoted saying:

"If there are 10 people who have been accused, and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all 10 people."

"Reasonable likelihood" has never been a term in jurisprudence in the U.S., but why not let Mr. Polis rewrite the legal system?

Glenn Reynolds comments:

So one of the longstanding traditions of American law — that it is better to let 10 guilty men go free than to imprison one innocent — has now been turned on its head. Under the Polis standard, it’s basically the other way around.

 . . .

As UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh notes, Polis’s approach suggests that he doesn’t think the rights of the accused are very important at all: “Now I should say that there are certain positions where indeed a whiff of suspicion might be enough to get someone removed. I just hadn’t thought that being a college student would or should be one of them.”

Plus, as Volokh also notes, Polis’s approach punishes the innocent without doing much about the guilty: “And that’s especially so when the policy is defended on the grounds that the students will just go to another university. The innocent expelled students would have their education badly disrupted and delayed. But the guilty students would ... just be at another university, where they’ll be able to attack their classmates (just a different set of classmates).”

Aside from being based on no known Western legal principle, Polis' brave new rule would make campuses even more hostile to men. 

There is also the underlying idea that young women never lie or exaggerate sexual encounters, which unfortunately just isn't the case.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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