Saturday, November 17, 2012

ACLU's efforts will make it easier for colleges to punish the innocent

In an affront to the community of the wrongly accused, the ACLU said it will investigate whether Virginia’s public colleges and universities have tightened their policies on sexual assault to meet stricter federal guidelines. See here.  For anyone new to this blog, the stricter federal guidelines mandate that schools make it easier to punish the innocent for offenses they didn't commit. Specifically, the federal government is requiring schools to lower the standard of proof for sex offenses in order to find more persons guilty.

For the first time in memory, a group historically at the forefront in fighting to preserve the due process rights of Americans whenever they were in danger of being taken away is working to roll back due process rights in a significant and blatant way. 

What is the harm of a school getting it wrong and punishing an innocent student for a sex offense he didn't commit? “The consequences for someone expelled for sexual assault are enormous and will follow him throughout his life, leading to rejection by other schools, inability to qualify for the bar and a great deal of stigma,” Prof. Cynthia Bowman of Cornell has explained. 

Claire Gastañaga, the author of the statement by the ACLU, fails even to acknowledge the significant student interest that Professor Bowman referenced. And she fails even to acknowledge the possibility that the new rules will make it easier to punish the innocent.

Gastañaga's stance has the perverse effect of allying progressives with law and order conservatives who typically have fought the expansion of individual due process rights at every turn.  She accomplishes the seemingly impossible task of putting the ACLU in bed with Bob Dole, the architect of Fed.R.Evid. 413, and every law and order loony for whom no law is strict enough to nab and punish sex offenders. To hell with worrying about whether stricter laws might punish the innocent with the guilty!

Over the past century, valiant progressives at the ACLU and similar organizations have waged many famous battles to insure that presumptively innocent persons accused of crimes were afforded individual due process rights. It is for this reason that Gastañaga's efforts are so jarring, and so wrong.

Gastañaga's efforts are an affront to the wrongly accused.