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Nothing Like a Little Summary Justice

As if the depredations of Burkquemada weren’t enough, the College’s Sexual Abuse Awareness Coordinator Amanda Childress has people talking about Dartmouth after her recent comment at a UVA conference on campus sexual misconduct (as reported by Inside Higher Education):

But for some in attendance, including Amanda Childress, Sexual Assault Awareness Program coordinator at Dartmouth College, campus policies aren’t going far enough to protect students.

Amanda Childress.jpgWhy could we not expel a student based on an allegation?” Childress asked at the panel, before noting that while 2 to 8 percent of accusations are unfounded (but not necessarily intentionally false), 90 to 95 percent are unreported, committed by repeat offenders, and intentional. “It seems to me that we value fair and equitable processes more than we value the safety of our students. And higher education is not a right. Safety is a right. Higher education is a privilege.”

“If we know that a person is reasonably a threat to our community,” Childress said, “why are we not removing them and protecting the safety of our students?”

But the panelists quickly raised objections.

“I think the ability of our communities to rely on the processes on both sides of the equation is inextricably connected to a fair, equitable process that is thorough and based on evidence, not just conjecture, speculation and rumor,” Smith said. “We cannot in individual cases just punt to statistics.” [Emphasis added]

How nice to see that Amanda’s attempt to ignore the wisdom of centuries of Anglo-American jurisprudence was quickly swatted down. But her remark illustrates the feverishness that Dartmouth students have endured for years in campus disciplinary proceedings conducted by people with little or no background in criminal law. Amanda is the proud holder of a master’s degree in education from Ohio University (according to her LinkedIn profile). She has no legal training.

You see, the crux of the issue is what do “we know.” I’m sure that Amanda confidently knows a rapist when she sees one. Good for her. Kate Burke’s COS hearings proceed in the same manner. But what “we know,” and what the protection of due process allows us to deliberately conclude, can be two different things. For instance, if we are going to expel a student based on a record of accusations, then why should we not allow testimony about the sexual past of the victim? Our laws limit us to adjudicating an action; we don’t draw conclusions about people and their specific conduct based on their history, particularly if that history contains no formal determinations of guilt, only accusations.

Childress’ arbitrariness and intellectual shallowness has people wondering what the heck is happening at Dartmouth. That’s a question I hear a lot now.

Addendum: Bloomberg is reporting that lawsuits brought under Title IX by male students are ongoing at Vassar, Xavier, Williams, Bucknell, St. Joseph’s and Holy Cross. Plaintiffs allege that slipshod campus judicial procedures are biased against men. Minding the Campus also reacts to Childress’ remark with disdain and describes a similar suit against Swarthmore. And an attorney and expert witness who normally works on the plaintiff side of sexual assault litigation describes why The University of the South (Sewanee) was found guilty by a federal court of negligence in improperly prosecuting a student for assault (John Doe v. The University of the South (Sewanee)).

Addendum: A longtime reader points to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) Guide to Due Process and Fair Procedure on Campus, a primer that educates students on their rights in college disciplinary procedures. Fire’s pressure about a decade ago was important in obliging Dartmouth to scrap its speech code.

Addendum: Prosecutory zeal like Amanda Childress’ is nothing new in the academy. However, its excesses threaten to incite a backlash against a worthy fight. In an opinion piece in the WSJ last year, a self-described feminist recounts the abuse of her son by the quasi-judicial process at “a small liberal-arts college in New England.” Fortunately, the charges against him were dismissed with the assistance of FIRE.

Addendum: Phil attended the UVA conference, too, a prelude to a similar one this summer at the College. He had the enviable opportunity to rub shoulders with the IP, who undoubtedly was able to share the experience that she had gleaned over almost three decades in so effectively fighting sexual assault at Dartmouth.

UVA Conference1.jpg

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