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Editorial: OCR guilty of lowering conviction standards

September 1, 2011

Attention all college students and parents:

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights recently changed the standards for how all claims of sexual assault on campus are to be resolved.

According to the OCR, colleges and universities must lower their evidentiary standards to make prosecutions easier and convictions more likely.

So now instead of needing “clear and convincing” evidence of guilt to convict the accused, colleges must adopt a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, or risk being sued by the federal government.

The goal here is increase the number of students convicted for such alleged conduct and thereby, they hope, decrease the number of such incidents on campus.

Last spring, while speaking at the University of New Hampshire, Vice President Joe Biden decried the “epidemic” of sexual assault on college campuses right about the same time OCR notifying was universities of its new standards.

Whether there is an actual “epidemic” of such assaults is open to question.

According to the FBI preliminary crime statistics, the number of forcible rapes in this country has been trending down for years. In 2010 the number declined another 4.4 percent.

To believe, as OCR does, that one in five college students will be victim of a sexual assault during their college years, is something of a stretch.

Activists in this area claim that sex crimes are woefully under reported in part because victims can’t be sure they will be believed or blame themselves what happened to them. There is, no doubt, some truth to this.

But lowering the standards by which they will convict those accused of such awful behavior is frightful in and of itself.

There are serious due process questions here. Already on most college campuses protections that any criminal defendant can take for granted are routinely denied to college students accused of sexual assault. The accused has no right to an attorney, no right to face his accuser and no right to “a presumption of innocence” or acquittal based on “reasonable doubt...

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