Throughout most of the 20th century, American progressives often took the lead in strengthening due process and civil liberties protections for people accused of wrongdoing, well aware that minorities and the poor tended to suffer the most when these principles were abandoned. Over the last several years, however, on college campuses (and, to a lesser extent, in the larger discourse) the politics have shifted, and it is now progressives who have successfully weakened the due process protections available to people charged with sexual assault.
Progressives pushing the guilty-until-proven-innocent standards think they are fighting entrenched sexism, and maybe they are, on the margins. But the evisceration of due process has come at a cost—and, as 20th-century civil-liberties liberals might have predicted, that cost can perhaps be especially steep for minority students. At least, that’s the implication of a new lawsuit filed by two black students who were summarily dismissed from the University of Findlay in Ohio on a sexual assault charge. Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner reports:
Two students expelled for campus sexual assault are suing their university, alleging racism played a role in their case.
The two accused students, identified in the lawsuit as Justin Browning and Alphonso Baity, II, are both African-American. They were accused by a white woman, identified in the lawsuit only as M.K., after an encounter at a party.
Browning and Baity were expelled despite the fact that every witness interviewed corroborated the accused students’ story, and that witnesses came forward to say that M.K. bragged about the encounter as a consensual act. Not only were they expelled, but the expulsions came just two days after the accusation was filed, and campus procedures regarding sexual assault accusations were not followed.
Schow, a veteran chronicler of administrative malfeasance in campus sexual assault cases, goes on to describe the total lack of regard for basic fairness as alleged in the students’ complaint, describing it as “the most incredible I have ever seen.” To get a taste of how out-of-control campus tribunals have become, read her whole report. Reports of these kinds of incidents should also be treated carefully, and we have no first-hand knowledge of the case. But Schow’s report, if accurate, paints an ugly picture.
It’s tempting for those of us who oppose the campus war on due process to hope that cases like these will finally lead progressives—who control campus administrations, and (at least for now) the relevant federal regulatory agencies—to reconsider the wisdom of their campus sexual assault agenda. But that is the wrong way to win the fight. Basic liberal principles like due process should be upheld not because we feel particularly bad for this or that identity group, but because they are right and true for everyone. This is not about whether women or minorities are higher on the “privilege pyramid” that campus progressives have created. It’s about maintaining equality before a system in which race and sex should be invisible.