By Kyle Clark at NBC 9 News
WASHINGTON – Rep. Jared Polis, the Democrat who represents Colorado’s two largest universities, raised eyebrows Thursday with the suggestion that colleges expel all students suspected of sexual assault, whether or not they’re guilty.
Polis made his comments during a House hearing on preventing sexual assaults on campus.
In a somewhat contentious back and forth with a representative of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Polis argued that colleges shouldn’t use the same high standard of proof as the criminal justice system.
“If there are 10 people who have been accused and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all 10 people,” Polis said.
“We’re not talking about depriving them of life or liberty, we’re talking about them being transferred to another university,” Polis continued.
Libertarian and conservative media outlets pounced on Polis’ suggestion that innocent students should be expelled if that would allow some sexual predators to also be removed from campus.
Polis, who is known for being outspoken, stood by his remarks.
“[Polis] was making the point that our number one priority when it comes to sexual assault on campus should be ensuring we have the safest campus possible,” said spokeswoman Kristin Lynch. “It’s disappointing that some are casually dismissing the basic premise that universities have the responsibility to go beyond criminal law in protecting students from sexual assault.”
Colleges use a lower burden of proof than the criminal justice system to evaluate sexual assault claims.
A 2011 memo from the U.S. Department of Education reminded schools to use the preponderance of evidence standard, finding that it’s more probable than not than an assault occurred. Polis’ suggestion would appear to be a significant lowering of the bar from that looser standard.