Inside Higher Ed brings interesting news today about how the infamous "Dear Colleague" letter from the Obama education department--which requires all sexual assault and harassment cases to be judged by the lowest possible burden of proof, a preponderance of the evidence--has affected one university campus. In response to the letter's mandate, the University of North Carolina has reconfigured its disciplinary procedures, in part due to a desperate hope to retain some semblance of due process for accused students.
Under the current system at UNC, if an accuser simply files a sexual assault claim through the university but doesn't go to the police, the accused student has no right to outside counsel. "Neither a licensed attorney nor a person who has passed a state bar examination may serve as the investigator or defense counsel or be present during proceedings." If the accuser has simultaneously filed a criminal charge, "the accused student may be accompanied to the hearing by a licensed attorney who may confer with the student during the hearing so long as the attorney does not address the hearing panel, those hearing the appeal, or other parties or witnesses, and so long as the attorney does not delay or disrupt the proceeding." [emphasis added] And in either case, the right of the accused student to present evidence to clear his name is severely limited by a clause that prohibits presentation of evidence that "does not otherwise infringe the rights of other students." This is the procedure that Dean Manning had considered unfairly tilted against the accuser.
Since the Student Honor Court retains jurisdiction over all other disciplinary issues, the new UNC policy creates a two-tier system of justice. All other offenses under the honor code require guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; an allegation of sexual assault--even though a far more serious offense than virtually anything else that the honor code addresses--requires only 50.1% proof of guilt, and in a system where the accused student still won't have the right to a lawyer.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Justice On Campus
If you think that this situation represents some kind of "fairness" then we really don't have any ideals in common: