Friday, January 25, 2013

College sophomore Amelia Evrigenis says it's 'shameful' her school won't discuss how its new sexual assault policy makes it too easy to punish the innocent, and how a fraudulent accusation can smear reputations and destroy careers

In the The College Fix,  Amelia Evrigenis, a sophomore at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, is very concerned about her school's reluctance to discuss its revised sexual assault policy, dictated by the Department of Education's infamous Dear Colleague letter, which applies a “preponderance of the evidence” standard to offenses involving sexual violence. (Readers here know that under the "preponderance" standard, persons accused of sexual violence on campus, almost exclusively males, will be found guilty if it appears more likely than not -- which is anything over a 50% probability -- that the alleged sexual violence occurred. Previously, most schools used a higher standard such as "clear and convincing evidence," which made it more difficult to punish the innocent for offenses they did not commit.) Our concern, and Ms. Evrigenis' concern, is that the government has made it all too easy to punish the innocent for offenses they did not commit, and that schools don't even want to talk about it. Ms. Evrigenis raises concerns that resonate with the wrongly accused:

The American justice system is rooted in the presumption of innocence and the common law premise that a wrongful conviction is a more repugnant than a wrongful acquittal. The new Title IX grievance procedures are inconsistent with this premise. With a preponderance of the evidence standard, the potential for a false accusation to result in a false conviction of sexual violence is exponentially greater.

The college did not publicly announce the new Title IX policies to the student body until December 10 in an email sent by college president Pamela Gann. Notably, the message included no mention of the preponderance of the evidence standard.

It is shameful that Claremont McKenna has not made students immediately and explicitly aware of the preponderance standard. CMC students deserve immediate notification of this policy and an explanation of its implications. They deserve warning that a fraudulent accusation has greater potential to result in conviction, smearing their reputations and destroying their careers.

The college defends the new rules in the statement entitled “Regarding Title IX.” Claremont McKenna writes, “The policies and procedures regarding Title IX are civil and administrative in nature and based an approach that offers a fair process to all parties.”

However, the college’s reluctance to discuss the topic with the media suggests that it is not proud of this new policy.