Saturday, September 24, 2022
It’s not every day that any U.S. senator – much less 19 of them – denounce the presumption of innocence. Or describe hearings with cross-examination, hallmarks of both the criminal justice and the congressional oversight systems, as “wholly unnecessary to determine what happened in a particular incident.”
Those remarks came in a seven-page comment released from the senators in question, all of them Democrats, in response to new Title IX regulations proposed by the current administration, which already dramatically scale back procedural protections for accused students. Their ranks included respected moderates such as Amy Klobuchar and Jack Reed, as well as civil libertarians like Ron Wyden.
That many politicians are fair-weather friends of civil liberties is old news. But for students who face a campus adjudication, the consequences of this almost cavalier dismissal of basic fairness is troubling.
Over the past decade, colleges and universities have faced pressure, most especially from the federal government, to crack down on campus sexual assault. In response, most of them instituted one-sided adjudicatory procedures that tilted the process in favor of complainants. At the extreme was the “single-investigator” model, where one person, hired by the Title IX office, would meet individually with each student and then render a decision, with few if any checks and balances along the way. Colleges found this model attractive for cost-related reasons, and because it was seen as a way to encourage more victims of assault to come forward and to shield complainants from what was perceived to be a more challenging process involving live hearings.
Who needs the stupid old presumption of innocence anyway.