The White House Sexual Assault Report: The Words “Due Process” Never Appear

 

Three months after its creation, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault issued its first report (PDF) this past Monday night. Titled “Not Alone,” and accompanied by a new website, NotAlone.gov, the report announces new recommended practices for colleges and universities nationwide. Unfortunately, the Task Force fails to answer—or even address—my organization’s, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)’s, grave and continuing concerns about campus civil liberties and the reliability, impartiality, and fundamental fairness of campus judicial proceedings for students accused of sexual harassment and assault.

Here is an excerpt from my official statement released yesterday:

Perhaps most worryingly, the Task Force appears to be enthusiastic about essentially eliminating hearings altogether for students accused of assault and harassment. The Task Force is exploring a “single investigator” model, where a sole administrator would be empowered to serve as detective, judge and jury, affording the accused no chance to challenge his or her accuser’s testimony. Tellingly, the Task Force expresses only the most meager sense of the rights necessary to secure fundamentally fair hearings, noting that it believes the single investigator model would still “safeguard[] an alleged perpetrator’s right to notice and to be heard.”

Sexual assault is one of the worst crimes a person can commit. Those found guilty of it should be punished to the fullest extent allowed by law. But precisely because sexual assault is such a serious crime, providing those accused of it with due process—a term that appears nowhere in the entire report—becomes even more important. Due process is more than a system for protecting the rights of the accused; it’s a set of procedures intended to ensure that findings of guilt or innocence are accurate, fair, and reliable.

While there is no simple solution to the problem of sexual assault on campus, lowering the bar for finding guilt, expanding the definition of harassment beyond recognition, eliminating precious due process protections, and entrusting unqualified campus employees to safeguard the vitally important interests of all involved is no solution at all.

Read my full statement and FIRE’s response here.

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  1. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Ah, yes.  The Lewis Carroll school of justice:

    ‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first — verdict afterwards.’
    ‘Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first!”
    Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.
    ‘I won’t!’ said Alice.
    ‘Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. 

    (Except in this case, we need a male name to replace Alice.)

    We definitely need an organization devoted to Building Liberty Over Official Despotism to assist the the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.  We need FIRE and BLOOD.

    Seawriter

    • #1
  2. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    I guess I have a few questions about this.  First, what is the actual legal import of the White House “task force” on sexual assault?  I’m assuming it is merely a set of guidelines to be voluntarily adopted?  One of my pet peeves is the use of constitutional language in private settings – where that language simply does not apply.  If I own a restaurant and I want to refuse service, “due process” does not apply.  I should be free to kick you out because I don’t like the look on your face or the logo on your shirt.  Colleges are no different.  They are simply not bound by due process unless they are a government agency or body. 

    Now, if in your statement, you stress the importance of due process in legal proceedings and then encourage private institutions to adopt these valuable protections – well, that language change is important.  I don’t think we should be to excited about expanding constitutional protections to the private sector, because it results in grossly expanded government; our country has been moving way to far in that direction, already, and it’s a small step to “human rights commissions.”

    • #2
  3. DocJay Member
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Seawriter:

    Ah, yes. The Lewis Carroll school of justice:

    ‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first — verdict afterwards.’ ‘Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first!” Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple. ‘I won’t!’ said Alice. ‘Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice.

    (Except in this case, we need a male name to replace Alice.)

    We definitely need an organization devoted to Building Liberty Over Official Despotism to assist the the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. We need FIRE and BLOOD.

    Seawriter

    Yep.   

    • #3
  4. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    It’s come to my attention recently that “Due process” is an example of micro-aggression only used as a tool to support the War on Women (TM) .

    • #4
  5. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Ryan M: Colleges are no different.  They are simply not bound by due process unless they are a government agency or body. 

     Correct me if I am wrong, but any public university or college (State U, County Community College, etc.) is a government agency or body.  A private institution might be able to make that argument (although the federal government claims its rules apply even to private universities that take Federal assistance, even in the form of government-sponsored scholarships), but you cannot tell me that University of Texas or Houston Community College can institute star chamber justice and get away with it.

    Seawriter

    • #5
  6. user_517406 Member
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    What an irresponsible recommendation.  I have noticed that the more sexual mores become non-existent, the more overwrought the powers that be become over what sexual mores there are.  Rape seems to be about the only thing that is forbidden now.  Unfortunately it is all too easy for disgruntled former lovers to accuse men of rape.  Women on campus notice if they hold the upper hand in these cases, and, consciously or not, rape accusations will probably increase. Very troubling.  On the upside, maybe this will be how old-fashioned sexual mores once again become the norm.

    • #6

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