Just a few weeks ago, the media firestorm that often surrounds the Trump administration and its officials once again hit Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who came under fire during her confirmation hearings for her support of school choice and her lack of experience with the public school system.
Secretary DeVos announced the Department’s decision to roll back and review Title IX guidelines that put more pressure on colleges and universities to crack down on campus rape and sexual assault, specifically referring to the “dear colleague” memo from the Obama administration that outlined how colleges and universities should handle campus assault. This letter advocated for standards that have allowed universities to hand down punishments to accusers without clear, convincing evidence of an individual’s guilt.
In a majority of cases, students accused of sexual assault at many top institutions are not guaranteed the presumption of innocence or an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses against them, rights that our Constitution guarantees in a court of law.
Ms. DeVos’ assertion that these guidelines deprive the accused of due process rights has been widely criticized by the mainstream media, with left-wing publications like Huffington Post going so far as to accuse the Trump administration of protecting rapists and targeting survivors of sexual assault.
I ask this of those who criticize the Secretary’s decision: how can we claim to seek justice in campus sexual assault cases when the system does not provide due process for both the accuser and the accused?
Campus rape cases get ugly fast. The circumstances surrounding incidents of campus rape are emotionally charged, and many times alcohol is involved, making it easy for people to call into question the victim’s accusation or the guilt of the perpetrator. The optics surrounding investigation of campus rape cases are a clear and understandable concern for universities–– people won’t want to go to school in a place where their safety could be in question.
Nevertheless, throwing due process to the wind in an effort to save face or in fear of losing federal funding is not the answer.
In the American justice system, even the worst of criminals are given the right to presumption of innocence as well as cross-examination of witnesses against them, and there must be overwhelmingly clear evidence in order for a jury to convict them and send them to jail.
My aunt, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, has prosecuted countless cases against arguably the most despicable of criminals: those who abuse, rape, and even murder children. Yet in her accomplished career, she never once would have suggested that those criminals, who sometimes deserve far worse punishments than our justice system mandates, receive anything less than a fair trial. Even with due process of the law, the bad guys went to jail in the end. Why should we settle for anything less on our college campuses?
Leftists constantly rail against society’s double standards against women and minorities, and yet in this instance they choose to ignore the glaring double standard the Obama administration perpetrated in their Title IX guidelines.
Secretary DeVos is right to seek a fairer system to combat campus assault, and I hope that her intention is indeed to improve it. We should most certainly seek to erase the stain of sexual assault from our college campuses, but we should do so in a manner that ensures the right people are being held accountable. One-sided justice is no justice at all.
Caroline Hakes is a Freshman Representative for the GW College Republicans. The opinions expressed on this blog are her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official views of the GW College Republicans.