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Yale basketball captain expelled based on evidence standard that starts at 31% confidence

The Yale Daily News has confirmed what everyone suspected: Basketball team captain Jack Montague mysteriously left Yale last month because the school found him responsible for sexual assault, despite him not being under investigation by campus or local police.

Montague and his family aren’t talking yet because lawyers told them to wait, according to Montague’s father. But the News reveals something shocking about the system under which Montague was investigated:

When a member of the Yale community files a formal complaint of sexual misconduct, the [University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct] appoints an impartial fact-finder to interview relevant parties and compile a report of the events in question. After the report is completed and presented to the UWC secretary, the UWC chair … selects a five-member panel from the larger 30-member UWC body to conduct a hearing. …

After the hearing, the panel votes via secret ballot on whether the respondent has violated University policy; if a majority of panel members believe such a violation has occurred, the panel recommends a penalty.

Yale’s standard of evidence has been preponderance (“more likely than not”) for nearly five years – ever since the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights threatened colleges with yanked federal funding if they didn’t use preponderance in sexual-misconduct investigations.

So what’s the minimum threshold under which a student can be found responsible for a heinous crime at Yale? Three out of five people who are 51 percent sure that the violation happened: That works out to 30.6 percent.

There are two checks on this system – the dean of the college, who can overturn or modify both the conclusion and recommended sanctions that were issued based on a 31-percent confidence level of an accused student’s guilt, and the provost, who hears appeals of the dean’s decisions. In this case, Dean Jonathan Holloway and Provost Ben Polak apparently let things stand.

One of Montague’s friends is aghast at the process that led to his expulsion:

Although the UWC’s procedures are all available online, their actual implementation remains largely opaque, as all formal proceedings are kept entirely confidential.

Blake Thomson ’16, a childhood friend of Montague who said he knows the facts of the complaint and subsequent case, wrote in a statement to the News that he believes the UWC’s policies have multiple “flaws and controversies.”

“Those that were close to the situation are frustrated with our school, because we witnessed how the UWC policies go against established law and strip an accused student of due process and any form of proper defense one might receive in a real court,” Thomson said.

Yale refuses to talk about Montague’s case on the grounds that it would violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, but if the expelled student sues the school for violating due process, it will undoubtedly open up.

Interestingly, Montague’s accuser is known to the Daily News, which refuses to identify the student. That suggests someone violated confidentiality rules in the investigation, as one commenter on the Daily News story says.

Read the Daily News story and prior Yahoo Sports story.

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