The presumption of innocence and Title IX

The Department of Education under Obama has sent a “Dear Colleague Letter” to colleges and universities regarding their responsibilities under Title IX when it comes to sexual harrassment (including claims of sexual violence).

Now, I was prepared to write a lengthy blog post describing the PDF (that is rather large) but I have found another article that basically describes my displeasure with this letter. I highly suggest you read the link. However, if you do not feel the need to read even that, I will give you the very short version.

Even though Title IX only applies to schools, it is requiring that compliance with Title IX requires that any claim of sexual assault by one student on another be treated quickly, take place regardless of law enforcement involvement, and be treated under the lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard than the “clear and convincing standard” that is used in criminal procedings.

Now, I have no problem if claims against a school for sexual discrimination are decided via the lower standard. However, to require that students accused of sexual assaults be punished swiftly under preponderance standards is horribly unjust.  The requirement that the school protect the accuser from retribution during the investigation is reasonable. However, instead of creating a duplication of resources, the Department of Education should just require that all claims of sexual violence reported to the school to be reported to the local police and then require the school to help the police in their investigation of the alleged crime.

Of course, the “Men’s Rights Activists” (MRA) have jumped all over this one. And nobody should blame them for being angry. They should just blame them for how they respond. Posts like the one I shared earlier describing the letter are reasonable. Responses to the initial post here just go too far and are not helping. Yes, some are correct that it seems like the mere accusation could enough to get a kid kicked out of school and that is absolutely wrong. However, it is not schools who are coming up with this horribly flawed set of guidelines, it is the current administration who  (for reasons I cannot determine) are rejecting the presumption of innocence. They are absolutely wrong about this and if you care about the presumption of innocence you should contact the Department of Education and share your displeasure with this letter in a clear, concise and rational way (i.e. not like many MRA will).

2 Responses to “The presumption of innocence and Title IX”

  1. Unfortunately, men’s rights advocates don’t seem to understand the critical importance of the April 4 directive: http://falserapesociety.blogspot.com/2011/04/open-letter-to-persons-concerned-about.html

  2. Daniel Z. says:

    Well, I think a lot of people (MRA or otherwise) do understand the importance of the directive and what it does for those who are accused (especially falsely accused). The problem is that MRA take this as “an assault on men by feminists”. I personally know the head of the New Orleans chapter of NOW who stated on my facebook page discussion of this story that the change was “… stupid. And bizarre”. She is a very staunch advocate for equality and as a member of (and a leader in) NOW would likely be automatically dismissed out of hand by MRA before they would even allow her to state the conclusion that she did.

    She rejects the lowering of the burden of proof from clear and convincing to preponderance. I would suggest that many others do as well.

    I have noticed that other MRA have said that the problem here is higher education itself as well. However, that is also not the case as many higher education institutions would use the “clear and convincing” standard and are now being told by the government to lower their standards AND deal with the cases quickly (regardless of actual justice I might add).

    So yes, it is important to educate everyone about how requiring a university who would use the clear and convincing standard to lower that standard to preponderance could be a detriment to people who are accused. It is also important to note that the administration here is using their powers to effectively punish people for being accused of rape outside of the judicial system (probably the most important issue here).

    But it is also important that we tackle the issue WITH feminists like my friend here in New Orleans and not in a manner that pushes them away. And far too many times MRA will push away people who would otherwise support their cause just because of the hatred and vitriol used in their responses.

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