Friday, September 11, 2015

Colorado Rep. Jared Polis needs to resign: he wants to expel innocent students who are merely accused of sexual assault

United States Congressman Jared Polis made his shocking comments yesterday during a higher education subcommittee hearing on college sexual assault. Polis said schools might want to use a standard lower than preponderance of the evidence. Then he made the following assertion, which is as shocking as it is inane: ". . . even if there is only a 20 or 30 percent chance that it happened, I would want to remove this individual.” And:  “. . . 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 innocent should be sacrificed for the greater good--the interests of Title IX trump due process and fairness. The audience applauded Polis's rant trivializing wrongful expulsion.

Polis's comments yesterday were not merely morally grotesque, they were the most egregious affront to the rights and dignity of the wrongly accused this blog has ever heard from a lawmaker, much less a United States congressman. There is no room in the public discourse for such blatant hostility to the presumption of innocence or for such ham-handed pandering to a powerful interest group at the expense of innocent citizens.

Polis's comments were shockingly insensitive to young men wrongly expelled for sexual assaults that never occurred, and to the families of those young men. He owes them a sincere apology. COTWA will support any effort by FACE to censure this congressman.

Blithely punishing the innocent to make sure the guilty are also punished is a barbaric practice that is a hallmark of tyranny. From the time of Magna Carta, many brave men have died battling such tyranny. Polis's notions are unjust in any context, not merely in criminal proceedings. Ask any child if it's fair to punish him for something he didn't do. Apparently children know better than a United States congressman. Polis's flippant, indeed hateful, comments--trivializing wrongful expulsions with a derisive guffaw to garner cheap applause--echo sentiments uttered at the hanging trees of the Old South and by every dictator who has trampled the rights of the innocent. Polis's constituents ought to be horrified. It is well to note that Polis's district includes the University of Colorado at Boulder and Colorado State University. His comments yesterday prove him unfit to serve approximately half the students who attend those institutions. He needs to resign.

Polis made the comments during the testimony of FIRE’s Joe Cohn. According to Fire:
As Joe pointed out, students expelled for sexual assault find that the “rapist” label follows them for life, hindering their professional careers and other goals. And many lawmakers are pushing for exactly this result, with legislation designed to make obvious to recipients of a student’s transcript when that student has been punished for (or has an unresolved investigation for) sexual assault. Of course, if the student actually committed the crime, this result is appropriate. But to do as Polis suggests and derail a student’s life because of the mere accusation that he or she might have done something wrong—without a majority of the evidence pointing to his or her guilt, and even with the vast majority pointing to his or her innocence—is irretrievably incompatible with basic principles of fairness and justice.
Robby Soave asked Polis about his comments, and Polis's justification of his disdain for fairness was, to put it charitably, buffoonish. Let us hope the good people of Colorado demand that this disgrace resign immediately.