Thursday, September 8, 2011

More and more criticisms of the Dept. of Education's 'preponderance of the evidence' standard -- and a chance to add your comment

We've updated our listing of criticisms of the Department of Education's April 4 "Dear Colleague" letter here. I have never seen an issue in this milieu engender such outrage, and for good reason.

There is a great piece about it in the Washington Times today, and I urge you to add your comments to it: Sometimes, women lie about rape. 

Adam Kissel has written another excellent piece: Colleges Forced to Redefine Speech and Assault Codes, Destroy Civil Liberties,

FIRE weighs in again with In Verdict Against Sewanee, Federal Jury Sends Important Message About Proper Handling of Sexual Assault Cases.

Incidentally, it's by no means just male students at risk because of the new law. Male professors are at risk, too, as shown by this case, decided under the preponderance of the evidence standard: MSU investigation finds professor sexually harassed student.  Let us hope that more professors side with the AAUP in denouncing the new law.

But the most damning condemnation of the new law was posited by a woman who thought she was praising it, found here: "The preponderance standard works well at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, says Sara Peters, director of the Women's Center there. Rulings have come down at times in favor of the accuser, and at other times in favor of the accused. 'If you have a judicial board that is trained to look at the evidence and really think it through, then it should work as intended,' she says."

College disciplinary boards are notoriously ill-trained to investigate and adjudicate serious acts of criminality. Those are matters that should be left to professional crime investigators -- the folks who carry badges -- and judges. 

Worse, there is evidence that college disciplinary boards are trained to side with the accuser.  Take, as one example, Stanford. It was among the first colleges to retroactively lower the standard of proof even after a charge was filed. (Stanford used the new standard to hold a male student responsible for a "he said/she said" alcohol-fueled sexual encounter.)  How does Stanford train its judicial board to "look at the evidence and really think it through"? I will let Mike Armstrong and Daniel Barton explain. This is a trigger warning for members of the community of the wrongly accused:

"Stanford trains its judicial panelists, who will hear and decide disciplinary proceedings involving allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence, that neutrality is not only unattainable but something which should be avoided. Neutrality, the panelists are trained, makes the fact-finder an accomplice to the abuse and further victimizes the complainants.

"Specifically, panelists are provided with an article by Lundy Bancroft called 'Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.' The article instructs fact-finders that, 'When people take a neutral stand between you and your abusive partner, they are in effect supporting him and abandoning you, no matter how much they may claim otherwise.' Further, the panelists are taught that, 'to remain neutral is to collude with the abusive man, whether or not that is your goal.'

"Another article provided to judicial panelists is equally biased against the accused, who is almost invariably referred to as a male. That document is from the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness and provides judicial panelists with 'indicators' of an 'abuser.' It states that an abuser will 'feel victimized' and 'act persuasive and logical.' An impartial training system would not teach judicial panelists that if an accused defends himself persuasively and logically, they should infer that he is an 'abuser.' The Bancroft article admonishes, 'Everyone should be very, very cautious in accepting a man’s claim that he has been wrongly accused of abuse or violence. The great majority of allegations of abuse — though not all — are substantially accurate. An abuser almost never ‘seems like the type.’”

"Panelists are also provided with a document titled 'Abuser Accountability,' which states that an 'abuser' becomes accountable when he admits that his behavior was 'unprovoked,' apparently ignoring the reality that instances of sexual assault and domestic violence are almost always relational and do not occur in a vacuum.

"The intended effect of these materials is abundantly clear from the training evaluation, which asks participants to list three steps that “staff can take to effectively respond to people experiencing relationship abuse.” The goal of the training is apparently not to teach fact-finders how to be neutral, how to evaluate evidence for credibility and relevance or how to ensure that the accused is afforded his right to a fundamentally fair hearing. Rather, the purpose of the training is to indoctrinate judicial hearing officers with a particular ideology, which undermines the impartiality of prospective fact-finders."

Tell me again, why should I feel assured that my son is getting a fair shake from his college's disciplinary board?