Monday, June 27, 2022

Biden Administration Guts Due-Process Rights for College Students

From Emily Yoffe, at Bari Weiss's Substack, "Biden's Sex Police":

The White Houses's new regulations will gut due-process rights for college students accused of sexual misconduct.

Joe Biden has fulfilled one of the first promises he made upon becoming president. His administration has just announced a comprehensive set of regulations—701 pages worth—that will gut due-process rights for college students accused of sexual misconduct.

Apparently, Biden learned nothing from going through his own sexual assault accusation crucible.

During his vice presidency, Joe Biden was the Obama administration’s point man for a major domestic initiative: ending sexual assault on campus. There is no question bad, sometimes criminal, sexual behavior occurs on campus. Eliminating it is a worthy, if elusive, goal. But the Obama-Biden mandate expanded the definition of sexual misconduct so broadly that jokes, flirting, or “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” could be punishable offenses.

The Obama administration set out to change campus culture, and it did. But in doing so, it undermined women, demonized men, and diverted vast resources away from education. Under rules promulgated by Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education under Trump, many of these policies were rolled back. The Biden administration now plans to restore much of this.

Male college students (the accusers were almost always female, the accused male) were subjected to quasi-criminal proceedings on campus in which many were never told explicitly what they had done wrong and were unable to mount a defense. An adverse finding could end an education and foreclose many career possibilities.

Biden traveled the country, describing campuses as places where male classmates put young women in relentless danger (“This is a toxin on college campuses”), and where indifferent campus officials disparaged the women willing to report assault. But Biden's portrait was at odds with the way the majority of such cases unfold—often beginning as consensual encounters, then later ending up in dispute, frequently due in part to alcohol, miscommunication, and hurt feelings.

In numerous college speeches, Biden declared alarming, inflammatory, and dubious statistics on the frequency of campus assault. Biden advocated that all sexual encounters on campus be governed by “affirmative consent.” This means that each touch, each time, even between established partners, requires explicit—preferably verbal, preferably enthusiastic—agreement. Affirmative consent was adopted widely on campuses, and became a law governing student behavior in California, Connecticut, and New York.

Then Donald Trump was elected president, and Betsy DeVos, decided to reform what the Obama administration had done. In one of the most uncharacteristic acts of that chaotic presidency, DeVos went through the lengthy and burdensome process of writing actual regulations (the Obama administration had only issued “guidance”). The rules she released were, on balance, careful and thorough, providing necessary protections for the rights of both accuser and accused. I spent several years reporting on what was unfolding on campuses, and I wrote at the time that the DeVos regulations were an example of an immoral administration doing the moral thing. (See, for example, here and here.)

The DeVos rules went into effect in August of 2020, in the midst of campus covid shutdowns, so they have hardly had a chance to be tested. Now they will be struck. They will be replaced by some of the most pernicious procedures of the Obama era. (These dueling Department of Education regulations come under the aegis of Title IX, the fifty-year old federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.)

The new rules recommend a return to a “single investigator” model that was barred under the DeVos reform. This means one administrator can act as detective, prosecutor, judge, and jury on a Title IX complaint. The new rules also undo many of the procedural protections for the accused—including the right to see all the evidence, inculpatory and exculpatory, gathered against him. “It’s an evisceration of the procedural protections given to the accused,” says historian KC Johnson, co-author of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities.

Under the DeVos rules, adjudication of a formal complaint required a live hearing be held that included cross examination. The Biden administration lifts this obligation. The Biden rules also call for a return to investigations initiated by third parties, even if based on rumors or misunderstandings, in which male students can be subjected to Title IX proceedings over the objection of their female partners. (Robby Soave at Reason has a good summary of the Biden proposals.)

“It’s a document that validates all of the concerns we had about due process and free speech being on the chopping block,” says Joe Cohn, legislative and policy director at The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. He adds that the administration is giving schools the blessing of the Department of Education “to cut many corners that are essential for fundamental fairness.”

As vice president, Biden made clear that campuses were just the first stop in an effort to remake throughout society how males and females interact...

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