The Huffington Post brings news of faculty complaints at Occidental College.
The background: Several months ago, students filed an OCR complaint, alleging that the school’s process for investigating sexual assault complaints was so biased against accusers that it violated Title IX. That process (which nearly all news media ignored) denies the accused student a right to counsel in the disciplinary hearing; prevents him from accessing any documentary evidence related to his case until 48 hours before the hearing; adjudicates guilt on a preponderance-of-evidence standard; and includes the possibility of a student being found guilty of sexual assault even if his partner says “yes” to sexual intercourse.
Occidental’s administration quickly reached a financial settlement with accusers (some of whom were represented by celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred) in a related civil suit; risking bad publicity by standing up for due process did not appear to interest the college. But the OCR investigation continued onwards. In the process of gathering information for its response to OCR, the college has seized computers of faculty members who interacted with sexual assault accusers. OCR issued a carefully worded statement noting that OCR did not “require” Occidental to seize the computers. College computers are, of course, college property, but nonetheless seizing computers used by faculty in their offices is not indicative of an administration that values due process.
According to Huffington Post’s Tyler Kingkade, the college’s actions have aroused intense opposition from some faculty members. The head of the faculty senate, Nalsey Tinberg, wrote to the college president that the school’s action “will create a chilling atmosphere at the College which includes fear of retaliation.” Tinberg did not say, however, how the college should handle the legal difficulties that come with the OCR complaint.
The list of angry professors also included Caroline Heldman, chair of Occidental’s politics department, who describes her interests as the presidency, media, race, and gender. Heldman oddly claimed to know the identity of every faculty member whose computer had been seized, a charge that Kingkade passed along without offering any insight on how Heldman came to acquire this interesting nugget of information, or why readers should believe that a faculty member at Occidental has inside information on the administration’s investigation tactics. In any case, Heldman’s standing up for due process seems a little ironic, given that she was one of two Occidental professors who joined in the original OCR complaint.
The Heldman approach, summarized: due process concerns aren’t implicated at all when the college administration sets up a system in which Occidental students are denied right to counsel, or can be found guilty of rape by extraordinary vague, even contradictory, standards. But due process concerns are very much implicated when the same college administration goes after faculty members with an ideological agenda she admires.
The Occidental faculty motto appears to be: Due process for us, but our students are on their own.