Do you know your rights?
“Innocent until proven guilty” has been the rule of the American justice system since its inception. It still is today. Unless, that is, you happen to be accused of wrongdoing on a college campus. In that case, you might as well be dragged before the modern-day equivalent of the Star Chamber, where campus administrators hardly even pay lip service to your due process rights.
As we explored last week with Carissa Hessick, it is a far graver injustice to deprive an innocent person of the liberty than to let a guilty person go free. That is why the founders gave the accused so many protections in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) was created to uphold these protections against rules passed under the Title IX legislation that require colleges to effectively prosecute students outside of the criminal justice system. In these campus tribunals, those accused of serious misconduct like sexual assault have been denied basic protections like the right to a live hearing, to cross examine witnesses, and even to hear the full charges being levied against them.
Joe Cohn, director of FIRE’s Legislative and Policy department, joins me this Sunday to discuss a proposed rule change from the same administrative office behind the infamous 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter. The new language would turn certain kinds of constitutionally-protected free speech into a punishable offense under the broad umbrella of “sexual harassment.” Under the new rule, the “trial” that results from alleged misconduct would be conducted by a single college administrator acting as judge, jury, and prosecutor.
Anyone connected with an American university that receives federal funding (aka, virtually all colleges) should tune in to this important broadcast. The first step to protecting your rights is to know what they are. Be sure to share this with any college students who may not know their rights, and check out FIRE’s free Guide to Due Process and Campus Justice.