Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Brett Sokolow: colleges now are expelling and suspending people they shouldn’t for sexual assault

Sokolow: colleges' reactions to Title IX border on hysteria

If you think that a year after the April 4, 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter, American colleges have entered an era of peace and tranquility when it comes to their handling of sexual assault claims, you would be wrong. It would be easy to dismiss COTWA's concerns as lacking objectivity since it is our mission to tell the stories of the wrongly accused. But it's not so easy to dismiss the views of attorney Brett Sokolow, founder of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, which helps colleges across America mold their sexual assault policies to enhance the rights of alleged victims.

Mr. Sokolow says colleges are having a "fear-based reaction" to the Federal government's Title IX policy, and "that a lot of colleges now are expelling and suspending people they shouldn’t, for fear they’ll get nailed on Title IX.” Mr. Sokolow says the reaction borders on "hysteria."

He points out that expelled students no longer automatically have the option of just registering at another school. Nowadays, schools share information, which makes that problematic, so students who are expelled have a lot more at stake.

Hans Bader: colleges err on the side of punishing 'everybody in sight'

Or, listen to Hans Bader, a former attorney with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and one of the leading authorities on the subject: he says that campus disciplinary boards are so fearful of Title IX lawsuits, that they will inevitably err on the side of punishment. “Innocent people get found guilty of harassment because the school realizes the only way it can avoid liability is to punish everybody in sight,” Bader said.

Student sues college, claims rape policies discriminate against males

Edwin Bleiler, a student who was expelled from Holy Cross in Massachusetts on the day he was supposed to graduate last spring, is fighting back. Mr. Bleiler allegedly sexually assaulted another student. The accuser maintained she was intoxicated and unable to consent. Mr. Bleiler contends she wasn’t incapacitated but acted willingly. Mr. Bleiler is suing Holy Cross. He argues the college’s policies discriminate against male students in violation of his Title IX rights. An attorney for Bleiler, Emily Smith-Lee, contends his Title IX claim is premised on the argument that the school's policies are inherently tilted against men, by creating different standards for male and female students. We've written about Mr. Bleiler's case here

And by the way, Russlyn Ali, the assistant secretary who oversees the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, said: “Title IX protects all students, male and female, against sex discrimination."

Wendy Murphy: Colleges must protect 'victims,' and that means abandoning due process 'fantasy' of the accused

Wendy Murphy weighed in, and her comments are troubling: Title IX requires putting a thumb on the scale in favor of alleged victims — such as the “preponderance of the evidence” standard the Obama administration has said schools must use in adjudicating such cases. According to the news report: "Colleges must protect victims, she says. That means abandoning the fantasy they can make everybody happy by also offering accused students the full due process rights they’d enjoy in a criminal trial. 'You can’t run a school that way,' Murphy said. 'If every once in a while a school has to be sued at the cost of being fair to all students, so be it.'”