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The Dangers of the New ‘Accountability’ on College Campus Measures for Young Men

Lately, there has been a lot of media and political attention on legislating a new accountability regime for college campuses regarding sexual assault. There have been discussions about having greater training and reporting mechanisms as well as investigations, suspensions and expulsions. According to the proposals, if colleges do not implement these new programs, they risk losing their funding. It sounds wonderful from a politically correct standpoint to be tough on rape but before these politically correct and politically motivated ideals become law, we need to look beyond the surface at the dangers these measures could pose. If you are asking yourself, “What could possibly be the dangers of being tougher on sexual assault on college campuses, read on.

The main danger we see to these measures is that there are reduced due process protections for the accused. A young man can get kicked out of school because someone made a sexual assault allegation that turned out to be false. It should bear no mention that being kicked out of college can change the course of a person’s life in vast and absolutely negative ways. People who would have become doctors or lawyers or brilliant scientists would lose those opportunities. Getting back into school or getting into another school is often not an option because once it goes on a student’s disciplinary record that a school sustained a sexual assault petition against the student, no other respectable school is going to take a chance on admitting that student. Why? Liability. No college wants to accept someone they “knew” was a sexual predator only to have them strike again. The big money for the complaining party is usually from the school and not the accused. The new school does not know what really happened any more than the former school did but the result is the same—denial of an education. Without a college education, there is no real future for most young men.

The schools are the most vulnerable to being sued so they have a vested interest in finding the allegation true for their purposes so they can protect their assets. Unless there is strong and irrefutable evidence the complaining party is lying, the school is going to feel pressure to find the allegation true and expel the “offending” student from school. Further, there has been a push to lower the standard of proof at these disciplinary hearings even lower than “clear and convincing evidence” to “preponderance of evidence.” Proponents argue that the civil standard of preponderance should stand because the proposals are under the auspices of Title IX which is a civil measure to protect against gender discrimination and sexual harassment. While it is true that Title IX is a civil as opposed to a criminal measure, the consequences of a sustained disciplinary petition under these new proposed rules is staggering. While disciplinary hearings do not necessarily lead to incarceration, they do have a lasting and devastating impact on the accused student’s life. It is hard to deny that poverty is directly related to crime. It is also hard to deny that under-education is directly related to poverty.

Nonetheless, what is the difference between the two standards? Preponderance means more likely than not. The way this is often explained in court is that one side has the weight of a feather more evidence supporting their side. It is a lower standard of proof. Clear and convincing evidence is slightly harder to define because there really is no mathematical equivalent. It simply boils down to “is the evidence clear and does it convince” the decision maker. What evidence satisfies either of these standards is highly subjective. Even those in the criminal justice system would prefer not to deal with slippery and difficult to define standards of proof when it comes to something so important. That being said, a higher standard of proof is preferable to a lower one, hands down.

There can be no doubt that schools should protect young women from sexual assault but the campuses should also protect young men from false allegations. Gender protection cannot be one sided. Young men deserve an education free from discrimination and devastation as much as young women do.

(c) 2014 Washington & Associates

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