Editor’s note: The following is from George Will’s latest syndicated column, citing a new book by Heather Mac Donald, The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture (available now).
The assault on civil rights that was mandated by the civil rights division of President Barack Obama’s Education Department might soon abate. Current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is moving to halt the life-shattering procedures that began in 2011, when the department sent to colleges and universities a “Dear Colleague” letter: To avoid costly and reputation-damaging investigations, and perhaps the loss of federal funds, institutions must embrace the department’s new interpretation of a then-39-year-old provision of federal law that said merely that no person at an institution receiving federal funds shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of sex. From this, the department began micromanaging institutions’ disciplinary practices in ways that traduce constitutional guarantees.
For seven years, men accused of sexual assault, a category elastic enough to encompass “broad ranges of behavior” (read on), have been convicted, sometimes expelled, their futures blighted. Sometimes justice has been done, but injustices have been perpetrated by improvised campus tribunals orchestrated by administrators with vocational incentives to discover offenses that justify their offices. The “guidance” has mandated convictions on the basis of a mere “preponderance of the evidence” — 51 percent suffices — not “clear and convincing” proof, let alone proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The guidance strongly discouraged allowing the accused (almost always males) to cross-examine their accusers, who frequently are identified in proceedings as survivors — note the prejudgment. Accusers could appeal acquittals, exposing the accused to double jeopardy.
DeVos’s improvements, still being formulated, should reflect this fact: Heather Mac Donald, in “The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture,” notes that, “as of early 2018, 79 judges had issued rulings against schools’ rape trial procedures” adopted in conformity with the Obama administration’s dictates. Tellingly, they did not pressure institutions to immediately involve professionals from the criminal justice system in investigating sexual assaults. Mac Donald suggests why:
George F. Will writes a twice-weekly column on politics and domestic and foreign affairs. He began his column with The Post in 1974, and he received the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1977.
Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute, contributing editor at City Journal, and the author of the bestselling War on Cops and The Diversity Delusion (available now). Follow her on Twitter here.