In my previous post on this subject, I wrote of how colleges and universities across the United States are rapidly disassembling the way that accusations of college campus rape and college campus sexual assault are handled – and of how, in the process, many accused students’ legal and constitutional rights are being trampled in the process.
While there are many examples of this disturbing trend across the country, making Exhibit “A” is the story of John Doe v. Amherst College: A shocking story of how a male student was railroaded out of one of the country’s most “esteemed” universities, based on the shallowest of claims and weakest of evidence offered.
This suit raises disturbing questions about whether colleges and universities conducting their own internal “investigations,” do so within the rules of law. These questions haven’t come out of nowhere – they’re prompted at least in part by the pressure that federal regulators have exerted upon colleges and universities to use a less stringent standard of evidence to “convict” an accused student, than that which has been used in courts across Massachusetts and the entire country for hundreds of years. As anyone who has ever read a legal thriller or watched the same kind of movie, in order to legally convict an accused of a crime (any crime, never mind one so serious as sexual assault or rape – a jury or judge must find that the accused is guilty to a standard of “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.”
As a Massachusetts college student defense lawyer, I can assure readers that this standard of evidence is the highest and strictest standard in the law, and it is so for good reason: Fleeing a country where the Crown (King) could convict and imprison anyone it wished to with minimal proof or evidence, the framers of the U.S. Constitution wanted to ensure that our (new) government could not convict someone of a crime unless it had proven its case to a “moral certainty.” That is not some “constitutional or historical “technicality” - it is central to our system of government and way of life. (And if you don’t think so, you might want to re-consider that if you’re ever hauled into court and charged with a criminal offense.)
In sharp and disturbing contrast, the federal government – through one of its biggest agencies, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) – is pressuring colleges and universities to abandon the historical “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” evidentiary standard used by all criminal courts, and replace it with a much weaker, lower standard of evidence known legally as a "Preponderance of The Evidence.” As a Boston Massachusetts sexual assault defense attorney, I can assure that this is a disturbing concept; that anyone would even think of advancing this draconian idea is, frankly, frightening. So why, of all organizations, would the federal government pressure colleges and universities to comply with such a disturbing idea?
In short, political correctness, that’s why. In response to the hue and cry from feminist campus “activists”; in response to public relations problems that many of these schools have concerning sexual misconduct. Specifically, to crush under foot any hint of even an idea that they “don’t take campus sexual assault lightly.” And if anyone speaks out against these draconian ideas and policies? They are eviscerated: Branded as misogynists and troglodytes. This is done even to women who might dare to protest these injustices.
Exhibit “B” on that point: Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis. Professor Kipnis became the target of a complaint under Title IX – which, as explained on my previous post on this subject, covers accusations of sexual misconduct in universities -- because she wrote an essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education. In that essay, she bemoaned widespread "sexual paranoia" at Northwestern, and she had the gall to criticize widely publicized sexual-assault allegations that had been lodged against a male professor at the school. Feminist campus “activists” complained that Kipnis' essay could be ‘interpreted’ as ‘retaliation’ against the professor's female accuser, and thus (sit down) contributed to a “hostile environment” at the school.
Care to know what happened next? Administrative disciplinary proceedings were begun at Northwestern against Kipnis. Despite repeated efforts, she was unable to get any straight answers from university officials about the “charges” against her. She was prohibited from being represented by an attorney, she was prevented from recording ‘interviews’ with university investigators, and she met with nothing but administrative stonewalling and roadblocks. Professor Kipnis has described her ordeal as an "Inquisition.” Other credible critics have termed similar Title IX investigations as “star chambers,” “kangaroo courts,” even "Stalinist persecution."
That’s what happens when you challenge political correctness and pressurized group-think. As a Massachusetts college student defense lawyer, I urge each and every parent of a Massachusetts college or university student (as well as students themselves) to investigate exactly what the policies are concerning Massachusetts college student sexual accusations, at the university their child is attending.
Nothing less than their entire future could be at stake. And all it will take, is one accusation of Massachusetts college campus sexual assault. Parents and students alike need to make sure that the rule of law governs on Massachusetts college campuses – not the rule of the mob.