The hometown newspaper of Colorado U.S. Rep. Jared Polis is censuring the Democrat for his “spectacularly bad” proposal for how to deal with campus sexual assault.
During a hearing of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held earlier this week, Polis said that all students accused of sexual assault should be expelled, even if there is a high likelihood that they were falsely accused.
“If I was running [a private university], I might say, ‘Well, you know even if there’s a 20 to 30 percent chance that it happened, I would want to remove this individual,'” Polis said during an exchange with Joseph Cohn, the policy director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. (RELATED: Dem Congressman: Expel All Students Accused Of Sexual Assault, Even The Innocent Ones)
Polis explained his draconian proposal further, saying that “if there’s 10 people who have been accused, and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all 10 people.”
The Boulder Daily Camera slammed Polis’ proposal in a scathing editorial published Sunday. Boulder is the largest city in Colorado’s 2nd congressional district — a seat Polis has held since 2009.
“Such a policy would be such an astonishing abrogation of due process that it’s hard to know where to start in condemning it,” reads the editorial, penned by Dave Krieger on behalf of the editorial board.
“Our entire criminal justice system is built on the premise stated by the British jurist Sir William Blackstone in 1765: ‘Better that 10 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.'”
The editorial also cited John Adams, who, while defending British troops accused of murder during the Boston Massacre in 1770, said that “It is more important that innocence should be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that all of them cannot be punished.”
During the House hearing, Polis poo-poohed the suggestion that his proposal infringed on innocent students’ rights.
“We’re not talking depriving them of life and liberty, we’re talking about their transfer to another university, for crying out loud,” Polis said, laughing, as audience members applauded his remarks.
In an interview with Reason magazine after his pronouncement, Polis was asked how he would respond if his son was falsely accused of sexual assault while at college.
“If my son had a baseless accusation made against him at a university and it was making his life there miserable, I would suggest he transfer or take courses online,” said Polis, who is gay and has an adopted son.
“It can be a living hell to go through endless campus investigations,” he added.
The Daily Camera dismissed Polis’ line of reasoning.
“This, of course, misses the point entirely,” the editorial reads. “A voluntary withdrawal is the individual’s choice. An expulsion is the opposite. To think a young person’s reputation would not be severely damaged by such an expulsion, and that a comparable university would happily accept an expelled student’s transfer application, is naïve.”
The paper also called for new policies which put sexual assault cases in the hands of local police, not college administrators.
“The answer is not to throw up our hands at the prospect of adjudication and delete all the messy steps between allegation and punishment. The answer is to preserve individual rights through due process, assign such cases to institutions trained to investigate and prosecute them, and punish those found guilty to the fullest extent of the law.”