A warning to college parents and grandparents

Your sons and grandsons are particularly targeted by administrators. At Hamilton College, male freshmen were required to attend a seminar called “She Fears You,” which was billed as a “cognitive and emotional intervention” that would address male-driven “rape culture” on campus and make clear what beliefs were “no longer acceptable.” Only after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE, where I work) exposed Hamilton’s plans did it make this creepy exercise optional. One has to wonder: If Hamilton truly believes that it has a “rape culture” on campus, isn’t it morally bound to warn incoming female students about it before they pay their tuition?

And the federal government has recently made the campus kangaroo courts even more marsupial. April’s mandates from the Department of Education not only required a low standard of evidence for sexual misconduct charges, but also that both sides have equal rights of appeal. This sounds fair enough — until you realize that even those cleared of transparently bogus accusations can now effectively be tried all over again. There’s a reason both sides aren’t allowed to appeal in the real criminal justice system.

Both this provision and the requirement to use the “preponderance of the evidence” are also part of a bill that has been introduced in Congress called the Campus Sexual Assault Violence Elimination (“Campus SAVE”) Act. If it passes, these unjust requirements will not simply be a matter of federal regulation, but the law of the land.

You might ask, “Is that so bad? Aren’t these students in the hands of the most intelligent and educated people in our society? Can’t we expect them to administer whatever rules they have fairly?” Quite simply, no, you can’t. Who can forget the Duke lacrosse case, where, early in the process, 88 professors signed a statement, published in the newspaper using university dollars, that presumed the three falsely accused lacrosse players guilty? Not one of them is known to have recanted his or her support for that rush to judgment. Many of them, in fact, have been promoted or gone on to more prestigious jobs. Here’s a question worth asking your loved ones’ college administrators, should you meet them: Would you agree to be tried for a crime using the same rules you provide for your students?

What can you do to help protect your child or grandchild from the perils of today’s campus justice system? Make a copy of this article for them. Look up your campus on FIRE’s website at thefire.org and study up on student rights. And if a student you care about should run afoul of the campus speech or thought police, contact us.

Robert Shibley is the senior vice president of FIRE.