If you are a male college student and attend an American university that receives federal funding, which you probably do, your due process rights took a significant hit this summer.
Because a recent "Dear Colleague" letter from the Office of Civil Rights within the Department of Education has mandated that all universities adopt the "preponderance of evidence" standard when adjudicating sexual assault cases on campus -the lowest standard of proof.
If a university decides not to use this standard, it risks losing all its federal funding.
The dangers of lowering the evidentiary standard are obvious: lowering the evidentiary standard will result in more false convictions. As I point out in a recent op-ed for my school newspaper:
By forgoing the “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard that most top colleges usually applied to allegations of sexual assault, the OCR has also forgone fundamental fairness and committed its own acts of metaphorical violence against student rights, against due process and against the founding principles of our nation.
Feminist groups and the government contend that the new standard is fine because university judicial bodies are not criminal courts, and nobody is being threatened with jail. However, as we have seen already, many have had their lives and educational careers ruined or put on hold as a result of false convictions stemming from this new standard. Not to mention that universities are ill equipped to prosecute such sensitive cases in the first place.
Philadelphia Magazine published a great article last month about the new evidentiary standard. It highlighted many of the individuals responsible for pushing for the new standard. According to these individuals, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the organization leading the fight against the new standard, is merely "sticking up for penises everywhere.”
I happen to agree with that assessment, but in addition might add that FIRE is also sticking up for due process, the law, and fundamental fairness.
As I again stated in my op-ed, "Trading one set of victims for another does service to no one, especially when one of those victims is the Constitution of the United States."
If you haven't seen it already, Peter Berkowitz with the WSJ took on the new OCR standard in an Aug. 20 opinion piece for the paper. He asks:
Where are the professors of history, political science and law who will insist clearly and in public that due process is a fundamental component of American political institutions and culture, a cornerstone of our legal system, and indispensable in a free society to the fair administration of justice?