Georgia takes a step in the right direction on campus due process

By   /   February 9, 2017  /   No Comments

A Georgia state representative has won committee approval for legislation that would remove the adjudication of felony sexual assault from campus administrators and return it to law enforcement.

Crisis mongers and their media allies are in an uproar.

The bill, sponsored by Georgia state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, would require any college or university employee who is told about a sexual assault that falls under the definition of a felony to report the crime to law enforcement. Ehrhart, chair of the Georgia House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education, worked with his fellow committee members last week to exclude social workers and psychologists from the list of mandatory reporters on campus.

Georgia Council on Aging photo

TELL THE POLICE: A measure under consideration in the Georgia legislature would require college officials to report felony sexual assault allegations to the police.

The media, which has for years perpetuated the “rape crisis” narrative and sided with accusers (even breathlessly reporting their accusations without fact checking them, as in the case of the Rolling Stone rape hoax), has predictably misrepresented Ehrhart’s bill.

Two articles from different reporters at the Atlantic Journal-Constitution used nearly the exact same language to describe the measure in the worst way possible.

“A key state lawmaker wants to limit the ability of Georgia’s public colleges to investigate and discipline alleged campus rapists,” wrote AJC’s Shannon McCaffrey on Jan. 16.

“A bill that would limit the ability of Georgia’s public colleges to investigate and punish those accused of rape on campus cleared a key House panel Wednesday by unanimous voice vote,” wrote Rhonda Cook on Feb. 1.

But Ehrhart’s bill applies only to accusations of rape that fall under the definition of a felony under Georgia law.

The actual text of the legislation is quite short, and takes less than a minute to read. Yet still it has been mischaracterized. Cook, for instance, wrote that “the measure would bar schools from pursuing final disciplinary action against a student unless he or she was convicted or pleads no contest to criminal charges.”

This is false. The bill would bar schools from pursuing final disciplinary action only in cases where the student is “alleged to have committed a crime which would be a felony under the laws of this state[.]” Cook’s wording makes it seem as though schools couldn’t discipline any student accused of sexual assault. But schools have watered down the definition of sexual assault to include actions that are not felonies, and those actions could still be adjudicated by the schools.

Cook also wrote that “Schools also could not initiate their own investigation unless police had done so.” Again, the bill refers only to those accusations that fall under the definition of a felony. Many of the accusations on college campuses don’t come close to the felony definition of sexual assault.

Also, and this part of the bill has been left out of many media reports, the legislation would allow schools to “suspend a student from such postsecondary institution while felony criminal charges are pending if the postsecondary institution finds, following a due process hearing, that allowing the student to continue at the postsecondary institution poses an immediate threat to the life, health, or safety of the student body.”

To give an example of how this would work, let’s say a student tells a professor that she was drugged and raped in her dorm. The professor would have a duty to report the matter to local law enforcement, who would investigate the allegation. The accused student, being charged with a felony, would have to go through the criminal justice system, but the school would not pretend to be such a system. The school could still have its own adjudication system to determine whether the student was an immediate danger to others on campus, and suspend him while the criminal process plays out. The student is still removed from campus, but if a trial determines him to be innocent, he could return to campus.

The process could still damage an innocent student, who has now been investigated or charged by police, but it is the police making the determination, not campus bureaucrats.

Ehrhart has made campus due process one of his pet issues. The father of two sons, he says he has worried about how they would be treated on campus in the name of Title IX, a statute that is supposed to protect against sex discrimination but has been used as a cudgel against men.

Sexual assault and rape are serious crimes, and should be treated as such. Allowing campus administrators to investigate and adjudicate felonies (while beholden to Obama-era guidance that has made it easier to accuse and find responsible without allowing the accused the ability to properly defend themselves) is unfair and dangerous to the accused and to accusers. The worst a college or university can do is expel a student, leaving them with a lot of free time on their hands and the ability to prey on anyone they want (supposing they really are the monsters the school and media would have you believe).

Ehrhart’s bill would go a long way toward establishing a system that could produce real justice.

One can’t ignore that going through the criminal justice system is scary for real victims. Activists and school administrators should put their efforts into explaining the system and perhaps accompanying accusers through the process rather than creating a pseudo-court system that is often little better than mob rule.

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