An application form used by more than 800 colleges dropped its section asking applicants for their criminal history in August, but maintains a part inquiring about school discipline.
KaiserDillon PLLC lawyers Scott Bernstein and Justin Dillon argued that if Common App removed the former section, it should also remove the latter one, in a column Thursday for The Washington Post. The lawyers said that while criminal courts require guilt to be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” schools rule on a “mere preponderance of the evidence.”
The Common App removed its criminal history section to make its application better conform with the organization’s dedication to “access, equity, and integrity,” spokesman Daniel Obregon told The Atlantic. But Obregon also cited the growing gap between colleges in how they use criminal history details to inform admission decisions.
“The Common App’s decision isn’t rational,” Bernstein and Dillon said. “It’s just virtue-signaling. It’s a way for the application’s leaders to cheer the egalitarian nature of what they’re doing, while failing to confront the harm inflicted by kangaroo-court decisions made at schools.”
The two lawyers represent students in campus sexual assault cases, which President Donald Trump’s Department of Education has made a priority during his first two years in office. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded Obama-era policies that it believed denied accused students their due process rights in September 2017. (RELATED: Secretary DeVos Slams ‘Shameful’ Obama-Era Campus Sexual Assault Policy)
“If bad things that people are accused of doing in the past shouldn’t be relevant to a school’s evaluation of that student, then shouldn’t that apply with even more force when that finding is made without any due process rights and with the lowest burden of proof used to find facts in law?” Bernstein and Dillon wrote. “In our practice, we have seen this more times than we can count — futures ruined by ‘trauma-informed’ Title IX inquiries conducted by ideologically driven investigators who care more about politics than the truth.”
A spokesman for the Common Application, the nonprofit that hosts the Common App, said that while the criminal history section will be removed from the application starting Aug. 1, 2019, universities will still be able to collect it using their “individual member screens,” while speaking with The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“There is greater commonality in the practices and use of school disciplinary history by our members,” the spokesman told TheDCNF. “For that reason, we have elected to keep the school disciplinary history question on the ‘common’ part of the application at this time.”
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