Walter Russell Mead Emphasizes the Importance of the Presumption of Innocence

By on April 25, 2013

Writing for his blog, Via Meadia, Walter Russell Mead frankly addresses the problem of adjudicating sexual misconduct claims on college campuses, where due process rights are being set aside. As FIRE has reported in depth, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights published a "Dear Colleague" letter on April 4, 2011 that mandated that universities use a "preponderance of the evidence" standard in Title IX cases, including sexual assault claims. "In other words," Mead explains, "a student must, in the judgment of a campus tribunal, ‘more likely than not’ have committed the assault." In addition, colleges and universities often fail to provide other procedural safeguards normally present in court, like the exclusion of hearsay evidence.  

Mead understands the gravity of student safety, writing that "protection of young people from sexual assault on our campuses is a real issue and one that has real consequences for real lives." With this in mind, Mead discusses the importance of responding seriously to accusations of sexual assault while maintaining meaningful due process to the accused. He notes:

Accusations of sexual violence and sexual assault should never be taken lightly. But neither should accusations be taken as truth. America is a country based on rights and fair procedure. Those accused of serious offenses must not be deprived of their rights, and college authorities cannot, in their commendable desire to protect female students, deny male students their basic rights. Both male and female students must feel that their rights will be protected and that they will be treated equally by their university should conflict arise.

Read Mead’s post in full on his blog.

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