Report: Colleges do a poor job supporting individual rights of accused students
- According to a new analysis conducted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, 85% of colleges and universities poorly protect the due process of students accused of misconduct on campuses. The report evaluated whether schools offered affected students written notice and the presumption of innocence, and whether students could cross-examine witnesses or accusers of the alleged crime.
- The analysis asserted that 74% of the nation's top universities do not offer the presumption of innocence to accused students, and 47% do not require that school fact-finders, which can serve a similar purpose as a judge or jury, do not have to be considered "impartial" as a requirement.
- Analysts examined 53 institutions and did not give an 'A' to any school. Only two schools (Cornell University and the University of California-Berkeley) received a 'B' score. FIRE officials argued the percentages indicate that innocent students may be unfairly accused or receive disciplinary actions against them.
It is essential for college administrators to ensure transparency in regards to campus disciplinary matters, especially when so many crises are immediately available for analysis and reaction via social media. Several college presidents have seen their tenures end prematurely because of the immediate impact of a controversial event on a college campus, followed by a paltry response or a reaction that was not clear and transparent for the college campus to recognize. A problematic disciplinary action could have reverberations for administrators down the line, whether it is a guilty student getting away with an infraction or an innocent student being unfairly penalized.
The report found 79% of universities analyzed did not protect the due process of students accused of sexual misconduct, and it spoke negatively in regards to a 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights which suggested that colleges and universities use a "preponderance of the evidence" standard in judging cases of sexual misconduct. Though FIRE contends that potentially innocent accusers are endangered, administrators are increasingly finding there is a price to play on campus and in the general public for ignoring or mishandling sexual assault allegations and are responding accordingly.