Tag Archives: star chamber

Star Chamber Hearings at Brown, Yale, and Cornell

brown students.jpgThe ugly episode at Brown–a botched hearing of an alleged rape case– is part of a disturbing pattern of how sexual assault procedures are handled at Ivy League schools. Typically, the schools impose a gross form of injustice, permanently damaging the reputation of the accused male, then congratulate themselves for acting so fairly and appropriately.

According to the definitive 3,279-word account published by the Brown Spectator, Richard Dresdale, a wealthy donor to Brown and father of the accusing student, Marcella Dresdale, secretly met with a key witness in the case, and agreed to help promote that witness’s career. Then the witness, student counselor Shane Reil, made a damning statement against the accused student, William McCormick. In a criminal case, this would obviously be witness tampering, and it looks like that here as well, but a Brown administrator said there was no violation of university procedures in the secret meeting and what appeared to be a bribe to a witness.

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Star Chamber Provision on Campus Dropped

In April, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights outlined a policy shift that represented perhaps the gravest threat to civil liberties on campus in a generation. Worse, Sen. Patrick Leahy inserted a provision in a draft of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 that would have made the dubious new policy part of federal law. The provision required college students accused of sexual assault to be tried under a weak “preponderance of evidence” standard that would have made it almost impossible for many falsely accused students to clear their names.

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The Star Chamber Comes to a Campus Near You

As Harvey Silverglate and Kyle Smeallie pointed out in Minding The Campus, the recent letter from the Obama Administration’s Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights outlines a policy shift that represents perhaps the gravest threat to civil liberties on campus in a generation.

The letter’s provisions would be gravely damaging even in its narrowest possible scope, by confining its tenets to how campuses respond to allegations of sexual assault. In the Chronicle, Christina Hoff Sommers notes that the OCR’s demand that universities use a “preponderance of evidence” standard in adjudicating all campus allegations of sexual assault “advocates procedures that are unjust to men.”

Campus disciplinary procedures already are heavily tilted in favor of the accuser and against the due process rights of the accused; the OCR’s new policy of requiring campuses to independently investigate all allegations of sexual assault (rather than, as should be done, have such matters handled by the criminal justice system) threatens to turn college campuses into Star Chambers.

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