The American legal system has some basis in the concept of due process, something reflected in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, with the English expression, “Innocent Until Proven Guilty,” coming to mind.
That said, even in today’s day and age, it is still easy for accused people to find themselves the victim of a witch-hunt. Sure, the American people have come along way; for starters, we’ve stopped actually hanging witches, but a single accusation can easily ruin a person’s life. According to a recent survey, three out of four college students are presumed guilty by their schools after being accused.
Only one Ivy League school won a “B” grade…both times…
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or “FIRE,” released a “Spotlight on Due Process” report for the year 2017, where they rated the top 53 universities in the United States for the first time. According to their findings, 73.6% do not guarantee students who have been accused of a crime that they will be viewed as innocent until proven guilty. Less than half, at 47.2%, also do not guarantee that the judge, jury, or “fact-finders” be impartial.
Looking into the 53 schools, each was assigned a grade, which itself reflected ten different issues: Presumption of innocence, Written notice, Time to prepare, No conflicts of interest, Impartial fact-finders, Access to all evidence, Cross-examination, Right to counsel, Right to appeal, and Unanimity for expulsion. Depending on how visible these issues were available at a certain campus, the school would receive some points that would translate to an A through F grade. Each school was checked at twice, for general accusations and allegations dealing with sexual misconduct, as schools might have different policies in these cases. Under the “FIRE” guidelines, however, none of the schools looked at won an “A.”
Schools appeared less to offer due process in sexual misconduct cases than in general cases!
For the schools that obtained a “B,” Cornell University, the highest ranking Ivy League school, and the University of California-Berkeley earned this grade in both forms. The University of California-San Diego obtained a “B” in general cases and a “D” in cases dealing with sexual misconduct. The University of Pennsylvania received an “F” in this regard, and the University of Southern California and Stanford University both obtained a “C.”
As the report concluded, “Disciplinary procedures at institutions nationwide share many shortcomings. However, most of the deficiencies discussed above can be readily fixed through policy revisions. Just as FIRE has helped numerous institutions reform their speech-restrictive policies to better protect freedom of expression on campus, we stand ready to help institutions revise their disciplinary policies and procedures to better protect due process rights and fundamental fairness.”
“Administrators or students who would like to work with FIRE in support of fair policies are encouraged to contact us at [email protected].”
(H/T: The Fire)