You would think that a call for fairness in handling sexual assault accusations on college campuses would be greeted with universal approval. But that is not the case.
The Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal comments today on what happens when Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos holds meetings to determine if current procedures are fair and, if not, what should be done to rectify the situation:
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos admitted last week that the adjudication of campus sexual assault is “an issue we’re not getting right.” Before correcting course, Mrs. DeVos is meeting with rape survivors, their advocates, administrators—and even students who say they were wrongly punished under the Title IX law that covers such cases.
Far from seeing the wisdom in this multitude of counsels, progressives are outraged. Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey complained that meetings with the latter group constitute a “slap in the face to the victims of campus sexual assault,” while Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti accused the secretary of “enabling rape deniers.”
But Mrs. DeVos is right to consider the plight of the accused. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education estimates that more than 170 students have brought legal challenges against universities over Title IX decisions. In more than 50 completed cases, courts have sided with the accused.
Many of these lawsuits hinge on the lack of due process for the accused. The Obama Administration’s infamous 2011 Dear Colleague letter mandated that students can be punished based on a “preponderance of evidence,” a burden of proof far less rigorous than the earlier “clear and convincing evidence” standard.
That same Dear Colleague letter also “strongly discourages” cross examination, which it says “may be traumatic or intimidating” to alleged victims. The accused frequently lack legal counsel and have often been prevented from presenting exculpatory evidence. Even when students are initially found not guilty, their accusers can appeal the decision. Meanwhile, the Title IX adjudicators who make life-changing determinations sometimes have as little as five hours of training.
We know that it is painful for those who have been sexually assaulted to lodge a complaint and then to follow it through. We commend their courage in doing so.
But the attempt to reduce the pain for the accuser by eliminating due process is not a solution to the problem.
In the interest of justice, both sides should have the right and ability to present their cases. To do otherwise is to lay the groundwork for tragic miscarriages of justice.