Occidental’s Star Chamber Hearings Get Worse

At
Occidental, a student can be found guilty of sexual assault even if his partner
said “yes” to sexual intercourse. And yet the school has been targeted by
opponents of due process on campus–ranging from celebrity attorney Gloria
Allred to Occidental professor Danielle Dirks to Richard Pérez-Peña’s slanted
coverage
in the New York Times–for not having a process sufficiently friendly
to accusers.

In
response to these Wonderland-like complaints, Occidental president Jonathan
Veitch asked two attorneys, Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie Gomez, to review
Occidental’s policies. (Maisto Smith had performed a similar task the same
after similar complaints emerged against UNC’s similarly due process-unfriendly
sexual assault procedure.) The message from the duo’s letter to Vietch: the college needs
to appease the mob, due process be damned.

These
two former federal prosecutors reviewed Occidental’s disciplinary procedures
relating to sexual assault. Incredibly, they appeared to have no problem with
Occidental’s yes-can-mean-no standard, or its prohibition on accused students
having lawyers in the hearing, or its bizarre claim that the school respects
due process simply because “the College never assumes a student is in violation
of college policy.”

Despite
purporting to have “entered this conversation with an open mind,” the duo’s
letter was exactly what would have been expected from figures intent on
appeasing the mob. The Smith/Gomez letter ignored the extraordinary due process
concerns embedded within Occidental’s policies, and instead argued that on
matters of both tone and substance, the college needs to bend its campus
procedures even further toward accusing students.

Smith
and Gomez urge creation of a new Title IX coordinator, with an unspecified
number of deputies; among the coordinator’s responsibilities will be regularly
consulting with OSAC, the self-selected activist group that appears to define
all women who claim to have been raped, even if they never file criminal
charges, to be “survivors” of an assault. The duo’s letter also demands that
OSAC receive a role in planning a “coordinated and structured educational
programming” for campus next year.

In
addition to the Title IX coordinator and deputies, Smith and Gomez also urge
Occidental to create another new bureaucratic position–a “dedicated advocate
for survivors of sexual assault”–who will also play “an integral role in
ongoing prevention and education efforts.” They don’t explain why the new Title
IX coordinator can’t fulfill these responsibilities.

Finally,
Smith and Gomez suggest they’ll be reviewing selected Occidental cases over the
past two years, even those in which an accuser’s claims were deemed unfounded,
a type of extrajudicial review of the innocent.

In their
letter, Smith and Gomez claimed to have consulted a wide array of figures on
and off campus. Defense attorneys or civil libertarians were not on the duo’s
list.

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