Thursday, November 29, 2012

College student expelled for alleged sex offense is afforded no due process at all: the most shocking display of academic hubris we've encountered

A male college student has alleged that his school engaged in conduct that can only be described as an Orwellian affront to his Constitutional rights. The case reported below is an example of how the Department of Education's April 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter is being applied to strip college men accused of sex offenses of their due process rights. This is among the most shocking displays of academic hubris we've encountered in all the years we've been reporting these incidents, and that is saying a lot.

The student, an undergraduate, has sued the University of Georgia, claiming that on November 7, 2012, he received an email from Kristopher Stevens, Associate Director of Equal Opportunity Office at the university, who advised him that he was being expelled, "effective immediately." 

Stevens informed the student that the student had been accused of engaging in sexual conduct with a female undergraduate last August during which she claims to have been too intoxicated to consent.

The female accuser left the accused student's room and continued to text with him while going to another residence hall. She ended her texting by writing "night."  Copies of the texts are linked here. Some 48 hours later, she reported the incident as an alleged assault to campus police.

No criminal charges have been filed against the male student, but Stevens embarked on his own, secret investigation that apparently did not include reviewing police reports or video surveillance of the accuser from the residence halls.

The accused student claims that when he was expelled, he had not been accorded any due process whatsoever. None. There was no hearing of any kind; the accused student was not permitted any opportunity whatsoever to confront, cross-examine, or test the credibility of the accuser or the persons Stevens interviewed; in fact, Stevens will not even release the names of the persons he interviewed and their identities remain shrouded in mystery.

The accused student went to court and successfully petitioned for a temporary restraining order pending a hearing this Friday.

We do not presume to know what happened in this classic "he said, she said" encounter. Indeed, there has been no adjudication of the facts, so it is premature for anyone to pretend he knows, except the accused and the accuser.

The University's process, in all its Star Chamber ramifications, is at odds with even rudimentary principles of due process. Summarily expelling a student after engaging in a secret process that relied on clandestine evidence and undisclosed witnesses is contrary to everything we, as a people, believe in.  How could the accused student possibly mount a defense or contest this purported evidence if he does not know even the identity of his accusers?

If he doesn't even know who his accusers are, how could he prove, for example, that one of them was, in fact, out of town or incapacitated by alcohol on the night of the incident and could not have seen what she claims she saw? Or that she told someone something completely contrary to the account she gave Stevens?  In short, the accused student could not challenge anything they said. Stevens made certain their credibility would be unscathed because their accounts could not be tested by the well-honed scalpel of cross-examination. The accused student became like the warrior of old entering a combat by discarding his shield and breaking his sword. The "trial" was over even before it had begun.

Among the dark ironies of this sad affair is Mr. Stevens' admonition to the accused student that it would constitute a violation of the school's policy to retaliate against anyone who participated in the investigation. It seems not to have occurred to Mr. Stevens that it would be impossible to retaliate against undisclosed witnesses.

The university's secret justice is intolerable and should be a grave concern to all persons concerned about justice on our college campuses.

The accused student's complaint is found here: