There is no substitute for evidence and due process.
Through much of the last month, the American people have been treated to a version of the emotional and ideological argument that’s dominated the American academy for much of the last ten years. The argument goes something like this: Women rarely lie about rape. Thus, the failure of criminal or civil justice systems to achieve overwhelming rates of conviction or impose liability at the rates of predation means that fundamental reform is mandatory.
Consequently, we must make it easier for women to bring claims, protect them from the rigors of proving claims, and utilize decision-makers trained to understand and respond to the unique trauma of victims. Moreover, when considering sexual-assault claims outside of courts, understand that due process is less important when a man’s liberty isn’t at stake. After all, a campus court isn’t a criminal trial. It’s an evaluation of academic suitability.
The result of this argument has been wholesale national reform — part of it mandated by the Obama administration’s Department of Education, and part of it willingly undertaken by colleges themselves — that has caused universities to lower burdens of proof, channel serious claims into summary proceedings, restrict the ability to cross-examine witnesses, and even limit access to evidence in an effort to streamline the process of punishing sex offenders.
It’s been a disaster.
From coast to coast, accused students — typically men punished for sexual assault with barely a chance to defend themselves — are filing lawsuits containing often-shocking claims. Judges, accustomed to the value of due process, often find themselves stunned at the unfairness of campus proceedings. And if you think that wrongful convictions for sexual assault aren’t serious because the men don’t go to prison, well then talk to the young men whose careers and reputations are shattered before they’ve had a chance to build a life.