Will: Due process is being kicked off campus
WASHINGTON – Academia's descent into perpetual hysteria and incipient tyranny is partly fueled by the fiction that one in five college students is sexually assaulted and that campuses require minute federal supervision to cure this. Encouraged by the government's misuse of discredited social science (one survey supposedly proving this one-in-five fiction), colleges and universities are implementing unconstitutional procedures mandated by the government.
The 2006 Duke lacrosse rape case fit the narrative about campuses permeated by a "rape culture." Except there was no rape. In 2014, the University of Virginia was convulsed by a magazine's lurid report of a rape that buttressed the narrative that fraternities foment the sexual predation supposedly pandemic in "male supremacist" America. Except there was no rape. Now, Colorado State University-Pueblo has punished the supposed rapist of a woman who says she was not raped.
Grant Neal, a CSU Pueblo pre-med major and athlete, began a relationship with Jane Doe (as identified in Neal's lawsuit), although she, as a student in the Athletic Training Program, was not supposed to fraternize with athletes. Jane Doe texted an invitation to Neal to come to her apartment. The following is from Neal's complaint against CSU Pueblo:
"As the intimacy progressed, knowing that they both wanted to engage in sexual intercourse, Jane Doe advised Plaintiff that she was not on birth control. Accordingly, Plaintiff asked if he should put on a condom. Jane Doe clearly and unequivocally responded 'yes.' ... They proceeded to engage in consensual sexual intercourse, during which Jane Doe ... demonstrated her enjoyment both verbally and non-verbally."
The next day, one of Jane Doe's classmates, who neither witnessed nor was told of any assault, noticed a hickey on the woman's neck. Assuming an assault must have happened, the classmate told school officials that an assault had occurred. Jane Doe told school officials the sex was consensual: "I'm fine and I wasn't raped." Neal's lawsuit says she told an administrator: "Our stories are the same and he's a good guy. He's not a rapist, he's not a criminal, it's not even worth any of this hoopla!" Neal recorded on his cellphone Jane Doe saying that nothing improper had transpired, and soon the two again had intercourse.
Undeterred, CSU Pueblo mixed hearsay evidence with multiple due process violations, thereby ruining a young man's present (he has been suspended from the school for as long as Jane Doe is there) and blighting his future (his prospects for admission to another school are bleak).
Title IX of the Education Amendments enacted in 1972 merely says no person at an institution receiving federal funds shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of sex. From this the government has concocted a right to micromanage schools' disciplinary procedures, mandating obvious violations of due process.
In 2011, the Education Department's civil rights office sent "dear colleague" letters to schools directing them to convict accused persons on a mere "preponderance" of evidence rather than "clear and convincing" evidence. Schools were instructed to not allow accused students to cross-examine their accusers, but to allow accusers to appeal not-guilty verdicts, a form of double jeopardy.
Although a "dear colleague" letter is supposedly a mere "guidance document," it employs the word "must" in effectively mandating policies. While purporting to just "interpret" Title IX, these letters shred constitutional guarantees. And the letters evade the legal requirement that such significant rulemaking must be subject to comment hearings open to a properly notified public. Even were CSU Pueblo inclined to resist such dictates — academic administrators nowadays are frequently supine when challenged — it would risk a costly investigation and the potential loss of the 11 percent of its budget that comes from Washington.
The Chronicle of Higher Education says the case raises this "intriguing" question: "What responsibility does a college have to move ahead with a third-party complaint if the supposed victim says she consented?" This question, which in a calmer time would have a self-evident answer, will be explored in Neal's lawsuit. It should reveal what the school thought of Jane Doe's statement exculpating Neal, who says a school official "brushed off" the recording and said that Jane Doe said what she said "just because she was scared of you." Neal's lawyer says he suspects that Jane Doe might now be intimating something "inappropriate" and is perhaps scared of losing her place in the Athletic Training Program.
CSU Pueblo should be scared of joining those schools that have lost lawsuits filed by students denied due process. Such suits are remedial education for educators ignorant of constitutional guarantees.
George Will is a columnist for The Washington Post.