Schools and colleges are closed across much of the U.S., but some in Congress have a different priority for the Department of Education: Ensuring that student due-process protections are weakened.
the department’s newly-confirmed Secretary, hadn’t even been in office a full day before 115 House Democrats sent a letter pressing him to “prioritize replacing Secretary
’ final rule” on campus sexual misconduct.
Among the basic requirements are that Title IX can’t be used to abridge constitutionally-protected speech; that colleges need to give notice of allegations; that accusers and accused have the right to an advocate and to appeal findings; that they have a right to a hearing on a reasonable timeline; and that witnesses can be cross-examined.
The guidelines hardly afford the accused the same protections as a defendant in a criminal case, but they are a needed corrective to ideologically driven campus proceedings that dispensed with any semblance of process or consistency.
The House letter claims the rule “turns back the clock and erodes hard-fought protections and rights for victims with a ‘boys will be boys’ approach to sexual assault on college campuses.” That’s nonsense, and we doubt most signers can name the rule’s relevant provisions.
A Democratic-appointed federal judge swatted aside a suit to block it in August, finding that the department’s effort to protect the First Amendment and due process is “in the public interest.” He wrote that the rule “has the potential to benefit both complainants and respondents” by creating a more durable framework for resolving complaints.
The House letter is an indication that Mr. Cardona’s Education Department will face fierce ideological and interest-group pressure to eviscerate Mrs. DeVos’s guidance. What a shame it would be if basic norms of fairness in higher education went in and out of effect depending on which party is in the White House.
If Congressional Democrats are determined to make limits on campus due process permanent, they should pass a bill. But they’d rather write letters asking bureaucrats in the Department of Education to do the dirty work for them and avoid taking political responsibility for the results.
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Appeared in the March 5, 2021, print edition.