The Notorious “Dear Colleague” Letter in Action

Inside Higher Ed brings interesting news today about how the infamous “Dear Colleague” letter from the Obama education department–which requires all sexual assault and harassment cases to be judged by the lowest possible burden of proof, a preponderance of the evidence–has affected one university campus. In response to the letter’s mandate, the University of North Carolina has reconfigured its disciplinary procedures, in part due to a desperate hope to retain some semblance of due process for accused students.

UNC has decided to remove sexual assault cases from the jurisdiction of its Student Honor Court, on grounds that students can’t be sufficiently trained to fairly handle such cases. IHE quotes Ada Meloy, general counsel for the American Council on Education, noting that UNC’s shift in part reflects a broader concern from universities “about the change in the burden of proof dictated by the Dear Colleague letter.”

And while this move might seem like a victory for due process, quotes from UNC administrators paint a far more troubling picture. Melinda Manning, an assistant dean of students, celebrated the shift on grounds that the previous system discouraged “victims” (as opposed to accusers, at least in the article’s paraphrase) from coming forward, since the system was “requiring victims to be judged by a roomful of peers.” A jury of one’s peers, it seems, doesn’t reflect the approach of many student life administrators. Another Honor Court veteran points to the current system’s high burden of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) as a negative.

Under the current system at UNC, if an accuser simply files a sexual assault claim through the university but doesn’t go to the police, the accused student has no right to outside counsel. “Neither a licensed attorney nor a person who has passed a state bar examination may serve as the investigator or defense counsel or be present during proceedings.” If the accuser has simultaneously filed a criminal charge, “the accused student may be accompanied to the hearing by a licensed attorney who may confer with the student during the hearing so long as the attorney does not address the hearing panel, those hearing the appeal, or other parties or witnesses, and so long as the attorney does not delay or disrupt the proceeding.” [emphasis added] And in either case, the right of the accused student to present evidence to clear his name is severely limited by a clause that prohibits presentation of evidence that “does not otherwise infringe the rights of other students.” This is the procedure that Dean Manning had considered unfairly tilted against the accuser.

Since the Student Honor Court retains jurisdiction over all other disciplinary issues, the new UNC policy creates a two-tier system of justice. All other offenses under the honor code require guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; an allegation of sexual assault–even though a far more serious offense than virtually anything else that the honor code addresses–requires only 50.1% proof of guilt, and in a system where the accused student still won’t have the right to a lawyer.

An additional note: parts of the Inside Higher Ed article, written by Allie Grassgreen, read as if they’re a press release from Assistant Secretary Russlynn Ali rather than a work of independent journalism. The article asserts as fact that the letter “was less a mandate to develop new procedures than it was a reminder (albeit a pointed one) of colleges’ responsibilities in handling allegations of sexual assault under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.” This statement, of course, is simply untrue–the letter mandated that colleges adopt a “preponderance of evidence” standard. And the letter’s assault on college students’ due process rights is rationalized as “part of a crackdown of sorts by the Obama administration on Title IX violations.”


  • KC Johnson

    KC Johnson is a history professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author, along with Stuart Taylor, of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America's Universities.

17 thoughts on “The Notorious “Dear Colleague” Letter in Action

  1. The low standard, 51%, and the prohibition on right to counsell is bad enough. But the bit about “And in either case, the right of the accused student to present evidence to clear his name is severely limited by a clause that prohibits presentation of evidence that “does not otherwise infringe the rights of other students.” means to me that the accused cannot even present anything that might impeach the credibility of the accuser because it might “infringe on her rights”.
    So basically if you are accused of rape in college today, you have
    1. no right to counsel
    2. no right to impeach the credibility of your accuser
    3. If the woman was drinking, you are guilty, even if she was begging for sex and cheering you on as you did it.
    4. And your jury will be a bunch of feminazi leftist professors, who only need a bare bones 51% standard of proof to convict you and ruin your life.
    Is it any surprise that not many men are going to college now.

  2. Imagine the consequences of this: college women are taught they bear no responsibility for their actions; they are permitted, even encouraged, to lie; they learn that institutions, be they the law or education, exists to keep them perpetually juvenile; they have the power to destroy men at their mere mention, and they can expect to be treated the same in the real world.
    Now consider that every major invention — computers, cars, satellites, cel phones, TV, medical devices, home appliances, flight, etc., etc. — and discoveries and innovation — medicine, science, agriculture, government, art, literature, entertainment, architecture, finance and so on — was created by educated men.
    Yet we have the educational system waging sustained, cruel, dishonest and shocking assault on the very people who have worked for centuries to improve the lives of women, all in the name of their feelings. What sad, helpless creatures they must be.
    Boys are refusing to go to college, and with good reason, beginning with their horrendous treatment in public schools (forcibly drugged, driven to drop out and suicide) and ending with the relentless bashing they recieve daily in media. They’re not contributing anymore.
    Without the innovation and adventureousness of men, will women be better off in a society made in their own image?

  3. I really don’t know what you folks expect. The university system in the US has been taken over with few exceptions by liberals and leftists. The white male is their target. The rot can only be addressed by the defunding of these institutions by state governments. When the money starts to dry up, things will change. Until then it will only get worse.

  4. When the accused is “punished”, I would think there is recourse against the accuser in civil court if not criminal court. The university probably is immune from lawsuits on this matter, but the individuals involved (including any student members) may not.
    Hopefully someone in all the extra lawyers produced over the last decade will see a business opportunity here.

  5. This is a WAR ON MEN!
    Were the tables turned, that a female could be expelled from UNC on a charge of sexual assault or *harassment* based on the slimmest margin of proof (nominally 50.1%), without the benefit of legal counsel in defense, then feminists would howl at the injustice of it all.
    UNC should hang its head in shame over this administrative action that proves their abject spinelessness in kowtowing to the PC police.

  6. How can this possibly be legal or pass Constitutional muster? Isn’t UNC a public institution? Is the Duke disease contagious?
    I eagerly await the first lawsuit against the university by a student who is falsely accused.

  7. This is beyond crazy. 30 years ago I’m sure lots of men (and women) thought of sexual assault as something that only happened to bad women, i.e. it was their own fault. Surely this is not the case anymore, so why these outrageous attempts to handle what seems like a tidal wave of assaults? There is one way to put an end to it though. When males start accusing females of assault, the ludicrousness of the business will be evident.

  8. Separate and unequal.
    What is it with universities and their culture of oppression, injustice and denigration towards men? Are their ANY men in these places who will stick up for themselves and the rights of their sons? Are there and mom’s there who care about justice and fair treatment for their sons?

  9. ‘ a clause that prohibits presentation of evidence that “does not otherwise infringe the rights of other students.” ‘
    That sounds rather strange. Are you sure you haven’t slipped up with a double negative?

  10. Just despicable. I can’t think of any other forum where a person is not entitled to the representation of a lawyer, whether its a local board of zoning appeals or local school board. But their going to let a group of academics adjudicate a kid’s academic future with a lower burden of proof than a traffic court and without a lawyer.
    Star Chamber we much.

  11. This type of bias was already evident in the early 90’s when I was an undergrad at a NE Ivy. At the time it seemed to be heavily rooted in an Administration-based anti-Fraternity, anti-alcohol, anti-male agenda. The first week as a Freshmen we had mandatory date-rape training where we were told that post-coital female regret with any alcohol involved by either party equaled rape. Consent was irrelevant. It’s difficult to stomach that this bias has only gotten worse.
    I will not be sending my three boys to college at this rate. It simply isn’t worth the risk of a life-destroying false accusation. How in the world do you teach an 18year old boy that he has to protect himself from any woman he meets…that at the whim of a partner his life can be ruin? What does that do to the health of a society??

  12. There is no way that I would actually choose to attend one of these institutions that have been taken over by feminists, gender and racial victim groups who run kangaroo courts to convict mostly white male students of accusations of various sorts that are not defensible using logic or fact.
    The people running most liberal colleges and universities are truly mentally skewed.

  13. As the male/female ratio continues to shift in favor of females, maybe one day this will protect virginal males from the rapacious devotees of the hookup culture (like Sandra Fluke).

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