The Weakening of Due Process at Penn

The Daily Pennsylvanian reports that Penn is moving full speed ahead to weaken due process protections when campus tribunals handle sexual assault claims—and only when they handle sexual assault claims. The DP notes that students accused of sexual assault will no longer be judged by a jury of their peers, and instead will face a panel of faculty members only. (Given the professoriate’s ideological mindset regarding gender-related issues, this move alone almost certainly will increase the likelihood of guilty findings.) Moreover, the DP reveals that the professors will receive “training”—guidelines for which I noted in a previous post.

Incredibly, the only opposition the DP could find to the new policy came from activists who argued it didn’t go far enough. Where are the members of the Penn Law Faculty?

Perhaps they’re reading Dorf on Law. The well-regarded legal blog recently ran a post from Cornell Law professor Sherry Colb, celebrating the movement toward preponderance-of-evidence in campus sexual assault tribunals.

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How Judges of Campus Sex Offenses Are ‘Trained’

I’ve written frequently about the unfair, guilt-presuming processes that colleges and universities from Harvard to Occidental use when deciding sexual assault cases. But a second trend has occurred largely outside the public eye. As they have “reformed” their sexual assault procedures, colleges and universities also have increasingly instituted training programs for members of these disciplinary panels—a practice not used for panelists that hear other forms of campus discipline. Because virtually no training material has been made public, it’s impossible to determine how many schools specifically train sexual assault panels. But the demand is a consistent one among anti-due process advocates.

It seems plausible to infer that these “training” materials increase the likelihood that panelists will come back with guilty findings, but for the most part, it must remain an inference: to the best of my knowledge, no university has publicly posted its training materials. One school’s—Stanford’s—was obtained by FIRE, and contained such astonishing guidance as an accused student acting “persuasive and logical” could be interpreted as a sign of guilt. Portions of a second school’s—Duke’s—appeared as a result of the McLeod litigation, and did nothing to reassure concerns about unfairness.

A more general set of model guidelines now has appeared. Developed by the University of Pennsylvania’s general counsel and director of office of student conduct (with “appreciated assistance” from the director of the school’s Women’s Center) and “intended for adaptation by individual academic institutions” as a “template” for the post-Dear Colleague letter university, the model guidelines confirm that the special training sexual assault panelists receive only compounds the due process problems on this issue.

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Bryn Mawr and the Confederate Flag

Bryn Mawr College, a good liberal arts college where I adjunct taught a few years back, recently got the kind of press no college wants: two southern students displayed a Confederate flag, leading to days of demonstrations.

One protester had written on her arm “I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO QUESTION IF I BELONG HERE. I WILL NOT BE SILENCED.”

First, it might not be fair to attack this as yet another example of campus political correctness run amok. College administrators, quite reasonably, sought to have the students work out their disagreements. If there was something like McCarthyism at Bryn Mawr, the college president did not lead it.

Second, one should admit that as Stanley Fish argued some years back, we are all censors. Arguably, some symbols have no place on campus: most obviously the Swastika and the Marxist Hammer and Sickle, whose regimes produced at least 80 million corpses and ruined whole economies, societies, and ecosystems. (Read Harvard University Press’s Black Book of Communism if you require documentation.)

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Overstating Unhappiness with Student Loans

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Student Loan Ombudsman has just released his annual report on private student loans. The data in the report suggests that an epidemic of non-repayment is happening in the private student loan sector. Some 5300 borrowers lodged complaints with the CFPB from October 2013-September 2014, an increase of 38% from the previous year. The chief difficulty of 57% of complainants was “Repaying your loan / dealing my lender of servicer.” Another 41% said “Problems when you are unable to pay / Can’t repay my loan.”

Icing the statistical cake is a number of personal testimonials describing companies’ refusal to adjust their terms of repayment:

I have no options left in regard to lowering my payment, forbearance, deferment or delaying my payments. I work full time as a teacher, but my student loan payment is more than a third of my income. My [specialty student loan company] just told me that there is nothing I can do but let my private loans go into default and to try to work something out with the collections agency. I have no qualms about paying a monthly fee that I can afford, but currently the money just does not exist.

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Free Speech Is in Big Trouble on Campuses

floyd_abrams-460x307These remarks by the noted First Amendment expert were delivered in New York last night (Oct. 23) at the 15th anniversary dinner of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the foremost protector of free speech in higher education.

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This is an extraordinarily perilous moment with respect to free speech on campuses around the nation. It sometimes seems as if students—too many of them, anyway—seem to want to see and hear only views they already hold. And that colleges and universities seem willing to pander to that desire. And to participate in limiting what other may wish to see and hear. On bad days, it reminds of an old New Yorker cartoon in which one member of the Supreme Court whispers to another, “Do you ever have a day when everything seems so unconstitutional?” And even on good ones, it’s sure disturbing.

For every judicial decision striking down one speech code or another in publicly funded universities, it sometimes seems that another dozen are adapted. For every absurd, outrageous, humiliating speech—destructive withdrawal of already made invitations for prominent individuals to speak on campus, another and still another seems to occur.

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