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November 6 2017

Massachusetts Senate Votes against Due Process on College Campuses

by Charlotte Hays

The Massachusetts Senate has just voted unanimously in favor of a bill that looks like it would kill due process for those accused of sexual misconduct on campuses.

Due process for the accused was almost eliminated in 2011 by the Obama Department of Education, but Secretary of Education rescinded the Obama guidelines.

The Obama guidelines essentially set up kangaroo courts to deal with accusations of sexual assault on campus, with the accused unable to mount a proper defense. Being accused was tantamount to being found guilty. A shocking number of the results of these tribunals have been overturned in real courts of law.

The New Boston Post sees the bill approved by the state Senate as leading to the same sort of overturned verdicts that were arrived at under the Obama guidelines:  

A bill that addresses campus sexual assault and harassment allegations swept through the Senate in a unanimous vote this week, but a close inspection of the language suggests it may open up the Bay State’s colleges and universities to a batch of lawsuits from the accused.

The unintended consequences stemming from the measure, titled “An Act Relative to Sexual Violence on College Campuses,” could be similar to the legal ramifications that dogged former President Barack Obama’s Title IX directive instructing colleges and universities to rely on a “preponderance of the evidence” standard instead of due process.

The Obama-era guideline on how colleges should handle allegations of sexual assault was recently rescinded by current federal education secretary Betsy DeVos. But Massachusetts legislators appear to be moving toward enacting something similar here. The bill the state Senate passed Thursday is on the verge of being adopted as Massachusetts state law, should the Democrat-controlled House approve it.

. . .

The 13-page bill, sponsored by state Senator Michael Moore (D-Millbury), calls “for the use of a preponderance-of-the-evidence standard to resolve complaints” and stipulates that colleges “may establish rules regarding how the proceedings will be conducted.”

Preponderance of evidence is much lower than the usual requirement of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, a cornerstone of western jurisprudence. This is the standard that has led to findings by college tribunals that are later overturned in court.

 The legislation passed by the Massachusetts Senate could prevent a representative for the accused from questioning the accuser--which is one way to dramatically increase the odds of a guilty verdict regardless of guilt or innocence.

A State senator offered an interesting defense of the bill:

Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler said she wished victims of sexual assault felt as safe coming to their university administrators as they may have sharing their stories on social media through the #MeToo campaign. She asked senators to "speak up for the muted voices of victims of sexual assault on campus."

"This bill intends to make these institutions better equipped to help women report their stories and see justice, not feel forced to run and hide," Chandler said, "I am supporting this bill because I know what it is like to be a woman, to have a daughter and a granddaughter, to have women on my staff, and to speak with women in my district. We all have our own stories and would benefit from this bill."

We always want women who have experienced unwanted sexual advances of any kind to be able to come forward and receive justice. But it should be emphasized, as Chandler admitted, that the  #Metoo campaign is based on anonymous allegations. That should never be the basis or model for a tribunal in which somebody will actually be convicted of a serious offense.

I, too, know what it is like to be a woman, Ms. Chandler. I know that difficult as it is to go through the legal process, that is the only fair way to reach a verdict that is fair to both parties.

Speaking as a woman, I worry that this bill has the distinct possibility of leading to false conclusions of sexual misconduct cases on campus, which benefit nobody.

Speaking again as a woman, if I lived in Massachusetts, I would be offended that you are trying to curry favor with me so transparently and with a bad law.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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