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June 17, 2012

Yale Abandons All Pretense of Due Process

Yale and the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights recently announced a settlement of a Title IX complaint brought by several Yale students alleging a "hostile environment" on the campus toward women. (The idea that any contemporary Ivy League campus is hostile to women is nothing short of preposterous.) The settlement's terms included the following binding commitments from Yale:

  • "use of the preponderance of evidence standard in determining whether sexual misconduct occurred";
  • "the right to appeal" for any and all accusers if an accused student is found not guilty;
  • "no complaint will be required to have face-to-face interaction with an alleged perpetrator in any informal resolution or mediation involving a complaint of sexual assault" (thereby freezing into place the current informal complaint structure in which an accused student can't cross-examine his accuser);
  • all "interim measures" during any sexual assault investigation "should not disproportionately impact the complainant."

The final two provisions go beyond the dubious requirements of the "Dear Colleague" letter. And, of course, because they're attached to a legal settlement, even the first two provisions carry far greater weight than the "Dear Colleague" letter, which is not legally binding.

In an e-mail to the campus community announcing the settlement, Yale president Richard Levin hailed his institution's various new sexual assault/sexual harassment complaint procedures, new procedures that decimate the due process rights of accused students (and faculty members). Levin concluded by expressing his commitment to "maintain a campus climate safe and supportive to all." How that sentiment applies to the unidentified professor who the administration has chosen to monitor without even informing him that he's been deemed guilty of sexual harassment President Levin didn't reveal.

The settlement provided the latest reminder of how no party has stood up for due process in negotiations between the OCR and major universities. Russlynn Ali's OCR, of course, is indifferent to due process protections; the agency hasn't even responded to multiple missives from FIRE raising procedural concerns about the "Dear Colleague" letter. As for Yale? A university that devises a procedure in which an accuser can file a complaint based on a "worry" and then subsequently have all-but-complete control over the investigatory process is not an institution concerned with fairness.

To provide a reminder of just how dismissive toward due process protections for the accused the Levin administration has proved to be, consider the aftermath of the Patrick Witt case. Virtually the only protection Yale's "informal complaint" procedure supplies to an accused student is the promise of confidentiality--for internal matters, Yale might deem him a rapist, but no one outside of a handful of people will ever learn of this designation. (A guilty finding in the "informal complaint" procedure does not lead to expulsion.) In the Witt case, this promise was violated, and in a poisonous fashion: the leaker intended to torpedo Witt's Rhodes candidacy. Yet there's no indication that anyone at Yale ever investigated the source of the leak.

"Our work," proclaimed President Levin in his e-mail, "is by no means done." Prospective Yale parents of male students should take heed of the president's promise.

Comments (4)

Reader:

Since when has any private university had pretensions of owing someone the protections of legal process? Due process something that can be afforded only by the state. Or is Yale an arm of the government of Connecticut now? Does it issue subpoenas and imprison people?

Tom:

> "Due process something that can be afforded only by the state"

Hell no, you man-hating neanderthal!

Due process is a human-right that should be respected whenever someone is being judged / punished for his/her actions. Only someone devoid of any empathy (probably full of hatred towards men), and incapable of understanding basic fairness and decency could be looking for some pathetic excuse to deny due process anyone. What scum!

logos:

Yale and many other universities are more than happy to take government money. In fact, they have gone so far as to argue that to attach conditions to such money violates a university's "rights" under the Constitution. If universities are feasting at the public trough, it's not too much to ask that they observe public standards of due process.

Dwayne:

Is the "preponderance of evidence" standard of evidence common for college-level disciplinary issues in general, or is this policy unusual in that regard?

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