Foundation For Individual Rights In Education (The FIRE) Report: America’s Top Universities Deny Students Fair Hearings

(If you don’t know what this photo has to do with the FIRE report, you haven’t been paying attention…)

The FIRE, the heroic non-partisan non-profit that is dedicated to fighting restrictions on student speech, expression and other civil rights, has issued an important report showing how badly respect for Constitutionally guaranteed rights eroded during the Obama Administration’s embrace of the “war on women” narrative and radical feminist propaganda regarding the “rape culture” at American universities. From the press release:

“Spotlight on Due Process 2017” surveyed 53 of America’s top universities and found that a shocking 85 percent of schools receive a D or F grade for not ensuring due process rights. The schools were judged based on whether they guarantee those accused of campus misconduct 10 core elements of fair procedure, including adequate written notice of the allegations, the presumption of innocence, and the right to cross-examine all witnesses and accusers. FIRE awarded each institutional policy a grade based on how many of those elements it guaranteed.

“Most people will probably be surprised to learn that students are routinely expelled from college without so much as a hearing,” said Samantha Harris, FIRE’s vice president of policy research. “This report should be a huge red flag to students, parents, legislators, and the general public that an accused student’s academic and professional future often hinges on little more than the whim of college administrators.”

FIRE’s report found that 74 percent of top universities do not even guarantee accused students the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Making matters still more unjust, fewer than half of schools reviewed (47 percent) require that fact-finders — the institution’s version of judge and/or jury — be impartial.

Additionally, 68 percent of institutions fail to consistently provide students a meaningful opportunity to cross-examine their accusers or the witnesses against them — despite the fact that the Supreme Court has called cross-examination the “greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.”

Most universities try students under one set of procedures for sexual misconduct, and an entirely different set of procedures for all other offenses. Of the 49 institutions in the report that maintain separate policies for sexual and non-sexual misconduct, 57 percent grant students fewer procedural protections in sexual misconduct cases — even when those cases allege criminal behavior. Troublingly, 79 percent of top universities receive a D or F for failing to protect the due process rights of students accused of sexual misconduct….

The report later says that not one institution covered by the study received the top grade.

It was the Obama Education Department’s infamous “Dear Colleague” letter that caused so many colleges and universities to treat male students as presumed rapists and sexual predators, and to anoint any female accuser with automatic credibility regardless of the timing, content, or background of her accusations.

The ACLU has been notably inert on the issue of campus censorship, speech codes and discipline, but for rare exceptions. The FIRE, in contrast, continues to exhibit the qualities of integrity, consistency and non-political commitment that the ACLU’s actions and policies so frequently lack.

10 Comments

Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Research and Scholarship, Rights

10 responses to “Foundation For Individual Rights In Education (The FIRE) Report: America’s Top Universities Deny Students Fair Hearings

  1. I’m a supporter of FIRE (generally). I certainly agree that universities are ill-equipped to investigate criminal matters–sexual or otherwise–and that they often conduct hearings without sufficient regard for the rights of the accused.

    Still, in my admittedly limited experience (a handful of cases over my entire career) is that students accused of sexual offenses are granted more presumption of innocence than, say, those accused of weapons or drug offenses. And I’m not referring here to the “he said/she said” potential of the former, but rather to the manner in which objectively verifiable evidence is treated.

    It is also true that FIRE shares one characteristic with the student services agencies with which they often do battle: they’re interested in justifying their own existence. I therefore believe the general thrust of their report, but I raise a skeptical eyebrow at the statistics, and grant their letter grades literally no credence.

    • Other Bill

      I hear echoes of the Southern Poverty Law Center and their ilk as well, Curmie. Not sure what to make of it. Maybe FIRE would be better off sticking to reporting on specific instances and staying away from reports including conclusory statistics.

    • “Still, in my admittedly limited experience (a handful of cases over my entire career) is that students accused of sexual offenses are granted more presumption of innocence than, say, those accused of weapons or drug offenses.”

      You know why that is, right?

      This is a spin on a stupid progressives position on questioning the victim, their “listen and believe” will pick up that while prosecutors will allege that rape victims might not have actually been raped, but they rarely ever allege that say… murder victims weren’t murdered.

      In case you weren’t aware, the reason that happens is because the base acts: sex and killing someone, are fundamentally different, the vast majority of sexual encounters are consensual, legal, and fun, whereas basically every murder ever has been non-consensual, illegal, and not fun.

      The reason that there’s more presumption of innocent in a sexual misconduct trial, especially compared to drug and weapons offenses is because the base act, having sex, is not in and of itself illegal, whereas bringing drugs and weapons into school probably is.

      • God… grammar… words…. blargh

        “This is a spin on a stupid progressives position related to questioning the victim. Their “listen and believe” brigade will notice how defense attorneys will allege that rape victims might not have actually been raped, and complain that they rarely ever allege that say… murder victims weren’t murdered.

  2. I am by no means a fan of statistics; that said, the criteria set up in the methodology seems pretty straight forward and reasonable and is probably not too dang hard to verify unlike that of random sampling polls taken on telephone.

    As for the grading system, it’s really opinion based and I really don’t care for it, I would have made anything below 10 points a failure.

    The big red flag numbers for me are “Presumption of innocence”, “Time to prepare”, “Access to all evidence”, and “Cross-examination”, and the “Right to Counsel”. We are talking about accusations for things that might change someone’s life “forever”; the numbers there are very troubling.

    In their conclusion they write, “Disciplinary procedures at institutions nationwide share many shortcomings. However, most of the deficiencies discussed above can be readily fixed through policy revisions.”

    At least they think the problem is fixable, some think institutions have gone so far overboard that they may not be fixable.

    • Other Bill

      Count me among the “some” last noted above, ZMan. The faculties and administrations in the academy are second and third generation lefties and Marxists (or useful idiots).

  3. dragin_dragon

    Oddly enough, colleges and Universities are NOT governments. Thus, they have no right to conduct trials, investigations or even hearings. I would doubt that they have the power to conduct arrests, except insofar as their campus police actually consist of commissioned police officers. And, if they were allowed to conduct investigations, where would they find faculty or administrators competent to investigate much of anything? The sociology department? That’d be a joke. Just bluntly, they should not be allowed to take any action against a student accused of an illegal act until a conviction has been obtained by a real, functional government, that actually has courts.

    • Rich in CT

      There are so many holes in that argument. It is illegal to vandalize; should the school be force arrest a student that vandalizes a dorm room or cafeteria before restricting resident hall or cafeteria privileges? Assault is a crime; should a school wait until a student convicted before removing him from classes with the student assaulted?

      • dragin_dragon

        To answer your first question, YES. It is a crime. The accused has a right to due process, including an arrest, provided the accused is turned over to an actual law enforcement agency after the arrest. To answer your second question, YES. The accused has a right to due process, which a college or university cannot provide. Read the Constitution, and history, which is replete with instances of university abuse of due process. The Duke Lacrosse team comes immediately to mind.

  4. It was the Obama Education Department’s infamous “Dear Colleague” letter that caused so many colleges and universities to treat male students as presumed rapists and sexual predators, and to anoint any female accuser with automatic credibility regardless of the timing, content, or background of her accusations.

    Urkel sure left quite a legacy. and yet, I still see people on Facebook and Quora defend his rfecord.

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