FIRE’s Samantha Harris Talks Due Process at Yale on ESPN’s ‘Outside The Lines’

By March 17, 2016

FIRE’s Director of Policy Research, Samantha Harris, appeared on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” (OTL) yesterday afternoon to discuss the due process controversy surrounding Yale University’s expulsion of Jack Montague, the captain of its men’s basketball team.

In a statement from Montague’s attorney on Monday, Montague vowed to sue Yale for wrongful expulsion, calling the evidence against him far from convincing. Montague’s attorney, Max Stern, accused Yale of using Montague as a “whipping boy” after a recent report by the Association of American Universities (AAU) said Yale hadn’t done enough to combat sexual assault on campus. Stern called Yale’s decision “wrong, unfairly determined, arbitrary, and excessive by any rational measure.”

Sam told OTL’s Bob Ley that Yale’s sexual misconduct adjudication procedures are troubling. Particularly worrisome, Sam said, is the absence of an opportunity for meaningful cross-examination. Under Yale’s process, the parties may submit questions to a hearing panel to ask the other party or witnesses, but “[t]he panel, at its sole discretion, may choose which, if any, questions to ask.” In a setting where there are often no witnesses, cross-examination is crucial in the search for truth.

“You have 18, 19-year-old students essentially defending themselves against accusations of what is considered to be one of society’s most heinous crimes with very little assistance and with little to no opportunity to confront their accuser,” Sam said.

Sam took issue with ESPN.com’s Adrienne Lawrence’s assertion that “a full blown trial” isn’t needed in sexual misconduct cases because “this isn’t a judicial system, this is an academic hearing in an academic setting.”

“It’s not the same as …  a finding of responsibility for plagiarism,” Sam responded. “It carries a tremendous stigma. As it should. But because of that stigma, and because of the seriousness of the accusations, it’s not something that campuses can afford to adjudicate without giving students very fair process which, too often, they don’t.”

Schools: Yale University