Sexual Harassment Update: Kangaroo Courts Rule

Glenn Ricketts

I hope you like bad news regarding campus sexual harassment policies, because that’s the only kind I can find since the publication two years ago of OCR’s new mandatory guidelines under which colleges and universities must process allegations of sexual harassment.  That’s “OCR,” short for the Office of Civil Rights in the US Department of Education, charged with enforcing federal civil rights policies on college and university campuses.  

The new criteria, recall, apply to higher education institutions receiving federal funds – which is to say nearly all of them.  Failure to comply with the guidelines carries the likelihood that some or all of those funds will be withheld.  That’s a pretty big and intimidating stick, needless to say, since government funding- such as Pell grants or Stafford loans - figure enormously in the budgets of so many recipient schools. 

But the most striking aspect of these “guidelines” is the new threshold of evidence that establishes guilt: 50.1%  What?  Isn’t that the standard used in civil cases involving mostly private monetary disputes?  Yes it is, but now OCR requires it in campus sexual harassment adjudications as well.  As a result, it's much much easier to reach a guilty verdict .  And if they do let you off the hook, guess what?  The accuser can appeal the acquittal, which often leads to a re-prosecution.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, eh? 

If this all seems fanciful, not to say surreal, have a look at this piece (“Swarthmore, Occidental, and Their Kangaroo Courts”) by KC Johnson over at Minding the Campus.  You may well conclude that I’ve understated the extent to which anything vaguely recognizable as Due Process has disappeared.  Moreover, as KC writes, it’s taking place with the casual complicity of the major media – in particular the New York Times – who seem quite unperturbed.  No worries, right? 

What a combination:  the feminist-driven campus SHI (Sexual Harassment Industry), the clout of the federal government and the support of the prestige press.  If you have a son who’s trying figure out where he wants to go to college next Fall, I suggest thinking about all of this VERY carefully.

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