Kangaroo courts should not be allowed to stand
For too long, colleges and universities have ignored the sacred American principle of due process, refusing to allow students accused of sexual offenses to confront and cross-examine their accusers. That may be changing, however: Just recently U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow ruled that, at the University of Michigan, a student who has been accused of rape must be allowed to confront the alleged victim as part of a “live hearing.”
The University of Michigan’s Title IX apparatus operates on the principle where “a single official makes a judgment based on ‘private interviews with the parties and witnesses’,” The College Fix reported this week. This is, of course, a deeply flawed system: one of the great law traditions of the Anglo-Saxon system is the right of the accused to confront and engage the accusers in a public and open court of law. There is only one real reason that a university would look to abolish such a practice: To make it easier for accused students to lose their cases and be found responsible. Indeed, as Judge Tarnow pointed out, the university does allow “live hearings” for nonsexual offenses; it refuses to grant the same right for alleged sexual misconduct, however.
It is fashionable today for universities to prosecute sex offenses with all the grace and zealotry of a Salem witch tribunal; this had led, predictably, to the abolishment of certain fundamental rights due to accused students. It is not clear if Judge Tarnow’s ruling will apply in practice to other Title IX cases at other universities; what is inarguable, however, is that it should. Being accused of rape or other sexual crimes is a serious and potentially devastating charge. Students who are truly guilty of such things should be punished to the maximum extent possible; students who are innocent, conversely, should not be unjustly convicted. That means, in practice, that everyone—guilty or innocent—must have access to the courtroom rights that are due to them. It is refreshing and hopeful to see a federal judge who understands this.
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