Last week, George Washington University Law Professor and celebrated civil rights attorney Jonathan Turley authored a very thoughtful and persuasive op-ed in USA Today about some of the adverse effects the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR’s) April 4, 2011 "Dear Colleague letter" (DCL) is having on student rights.
For those of you new to The Torch, the DCL is a Title IX guidance letter OCR sent to colleges and universities that accept federal funds (virtually all colleges in America). The DCL threatens to strip colleges of federal funds if they do not use the preponderance of the evidence standard (our judiciary’s lowest standard of evidence) when deciding sexual assault misconduct cases on campus. Many—including FIRE, the American Association of University Professors ("AAUP"), and numerous other organizations and individuals from across the higher education community—have opposed the DCL’s mandates as both legally inaccurate and a grave violation of the rights of the accused. However, few have summed up the arguments against the DCL as nicely as Professor Turley:
The Obama administration has created the perfect Potemkin village — a legal façade with the outward appearance of a due process without its substance. Weighting the system to guarantee more convictions is not combating sexual violence or harassment. It is achieving a statistical success rather than the harder process of assuring justice for both alleged victims and the accused. Students are not statistics and deserve more than the equivalent of a coin toss with two lives in the balance.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Please check out the whole article. When you’re done, give a look to Turley’s blog, which often features great entries on civil rights issues, like this recent piece about threats to free speech on campus.