Former FIRE Intern Defends Due Process in ‘The Philadelphia Inquirer’

By August 15, 2011

Cynthia Bell, a rising senior at Seton Hall University and 2010 FIRE intern, contributed an opinion piece to The Philadelphia Inquirer this weekend in which she defends student due process in academia. Cynthia explains why the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR’s) April 4 letter to colleges and universities, mandating the "preponderance of the evidence" standard of evidence for sexual harassment and sexual assault cases, is problematic for student rights on campus:

[S]exual assault is a criminal offense, and a felony to boot. It is a serious crime that should be reported to the police, not dealt with by campus judiciary systems with a low standard of proof. Lowering the burden of proof in these cases puts more college students at risk of being wrongly found guilty and having their reputations permanently damaged. How many innocents does OCR want to see mistakenly expelled as rapists in the name of getting tough on crime?

Real accusations require real evidence, and it is grossly unfair for students nationwide not to be afforded the rights they deserve simply because they want a college education.

I recommend reading her full argument here. We are proud to see a FIRE alumna published, especially on such an important issue. Congratulations, Cynthia!

Cases: U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights April 4, 2011, Guidance Letter Reduces Due Process Protections