Monday, January 4, 2010

Colleges institutionalize witch hunts against the presumed innocent charged with sex crimes by making it easier to destroy their lives

Tulane University and the University of Michigan are the latest colleges to take steps to make it easier to discipline students adjudged to have committed a violation of university policy -- which discipline includes expulsion and even retracting a degree previously conferred -- by lowering the standard of proof from "clear and convincing" to a mere "preponderance of the evidence."

"The preponderance standard dictates that an accused student “more likely than not” committed an offense, or that there is a 51 percent chance that the student committed an offense."  http://thehullabaloo.com/2009/11/20/sac-passes-code-of-conduct/ 

Fortunately, and to its credit, the University of Michigan has backed away from this proposal

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A college disciplinary proceeding can have wide ranging effects on the life of a student and can destroy his professional career. It is doubtful that the students themselves appreciate the implications of lowering the burden of proof.  The implications are potentially severe, and the new standard suffers from a gender assymmetry that is most disconcerting, and that I suspect most young men have never thought about. 

It is correct that these proposed burden-of-proof changes are across-the-board and apply to all alleged offenses. But make no mistake, the primary offense targeted by these changes is sexual assault. The danger inherent in the change lies in the facts that virtually no offense carries punishment as severe as sexual assault, and that no serious offense suffers the inherent evidentiary difficulties of sexual assault, where the adjudication of a complaint often devolves into "he said/she said" contest where the best actor or actress wins. 

Under the new standard, a woman need only accuse a male classmate of rape, and if there is the slightest belief that her story is probably more plausible than his -- the evidence supporting the alleged rape need neither be clear nor convincing (and it usually isn't) -- he will be disciplined. Meaning, expelled. Good luck to him gaining admittance into another good school.

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A reasonable person might think that the evidentiary difficulties in defending a rape case involving one person's word against the other's alone would counsel against lowering the burden of proof.  The higher burden of proof is often the only protection an accused male has against the very real possibility that his accuser is a good actress or a plausible liar.  In fact, the reality is exactly the opposite.  The evidentiary difficulties inherent in rape claims are the reason the burden of proof is being lowered in colleges across the country.  Re-read the previous sentence because it is among the most frigthening statement on this site, which is saying a lot.  The persons who dominate the public discourse about rape have convinced everyone that rapists are getting away with their crimes without punishment, and they see the burden of proof as one of the barriers preventing adjudications of wrongdoing, so they insist that accusers be afforded enhanced powers to destroy the life of the young men they accuse. 

And what's the stop a spurned woman, a woman who engaged in consensual sex but then felt conflicted about it, a woman seeking revenge, a woman seeking to hide an illicit affair from her boyfriend or father or girlfriends -- from crying "rape" when the need arises?  With the reduced burden of proof, chances are great that the hapless male she accuses will be destroyed on the basis of her accusation.

Azhar Majeed writing for The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education correctly wrote:

". . . even if the lesser evidentiary standard did induce more victims to come forward, the proffered rationale overlooks the need to provide adequate due process to accused students in cases of such magnitude. Sexual assault is one of the more serious allegations that one can face on a college campus, and the consequences of a finding of guilt can be devastating to a student's academic and professional career. Given the unclear fact patterns that are often involved in such cases and the 'he said, she said' nature of many such allegations, it is dangerous to allow these cases to be adjudicated under a 'more likely than not' standard of evidence. Considering the consequences that can follow from a finding of guilt, the fact finder in a campus hearing for sexual assault needs to be more sure that the alleged offense in fact was committed, not less.

"Put more simply, the Michigan Daily says that '[t]he University's current standard requires the reviewer of a case to be confident that a violation occurred.' Why would any student wish to live under a regime in which such confidence in judicial proceedings is not required?"

Why, indeed.  My suspicion is that young men on campus who would never, ever dream of raping a woman simply don't realize that if they are sexually active, and even if they aren't, they are at risk of a false accuser destroying their lives based on a lie.  I am also convinced that most fair-minded young women don't appreciate this danger to their male friends, brothers, and classmates, and that if they did, most would not approve.

For those young men with feminist sensibilities who think the scenario I paint is far-fetched, or that false rape claims are not a significant problem, you would do well to spend several weeks reading through the false rape news accounts, often involving young men just like you, reported on our website, not to mention the objectively verifiable information that demonstrates false rape claims are our nation's taboo but real epidemic.

The move to lower the burden of proof is a modern day witch hunt to snag more rapists. The goal of snagging more rapists is, itself, laudatory.  The problem is that the enlightened persons behind these efforts don't give a damn that the tool they use to implement this goal can and does also destroy innocent young men. 

And the question comes down to this: why would innocent young men attend colleges that treat them as flotsam -- not as worthy of the college's protection as their sisters?