In today’s Brown Daily Herald (Brown University’s student newspaper), Campus Freedom Network member and 2011 FIRE intern Oliver Rosenbloom pens an apt and well-written column outlining the importance of keeping students’ individual rights and due process issues in mind as Brown seeks a new university president.
As Oliver points out, Brown’s embrace of due process has been tenuous at best and, at worst, outright nonexistent. Indeed, according to FIRE’s recently issued Standard of Evidence Survey, Brown’s policies employ a "reasonable basis" evidentiary standard for judiciary proceedings. Whatever that is, it’s almost certainly lower even than the recent "preponderance of the evidence" mandate from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). As FIRE’s Adam Kissel pointed out in a New York Times article from last year, "It’s almost as if guilty when charged is the policy, instead of innocent until proven guilty."
To guarantee the fair administration of justice at Brown, a new president will have to take two steps: Change current campus policies that undermine due process, and ensure that University officials respect due process as they investigate criminal actions.
Oliver also points out the culture of censorship on Brown’s campus and lays out some suggestions for the new university president to promote free speech:
Historically, free inquiry has been one of the defining principles of universities. Recent history at Brown suggests that we have forgotten this fundamental value. It is vital that our next president not only make a stated commitment to upholding free speech rights on campus, but also take active steps to instill a deeper respect for free expression.
We at FIRE thank Oliver for writing his column, and hope that his suggestions are taken to heart as Brown decides who will be the university’s next leader.