An opponent of a new bill aimed at providing due process rights to students accused of sexual assault disparaged the thought of such constitutional rights because schools "must prioritize the needs of survivors first and foremost."
That's all well and good, but one does not know whether someone is truly a "survivor" unless his or her story can hold up to scrutiny, something deliberately absent from current campus hearings. But that doesn't seem to matter to Sarah Merriman, a spokeswoman for SAFER Campus, who told the Washington Post why she opposes the "Safe Campus Act."
"American college culture often paints rape on campus as a youthful indiscretion instead of the deliberate violent act that it is, and it is not the survivor's job to 'save' the assaulter from criminal prosecution," Merriman said. "Though there are many college faculty and administrators that have the best interests of their students at heart, SAFER cannot agree that leaving judicial proceedings, and especially the standard of evidence, completely up to the school is best written into law."
The majority of campus sexual assault accusations do not include a "deliberate violent act" of a predator and prey. They are, contrary to Merriman's claims, cases involving alcohol, misunderstood actions and he said/she said situations. "Deliberate violent acts" would be much easier to prosecute, as there would be evidence of such violence. But college cases are far more complex, which is exactly why students need to be able to exercise their due process rights.
Merriman claims that schools "want to preserve their perfect public image" by ignoring rape accusations. That may have been the case years ago, but the incentives have been flipped, and schools are now looking to expel students to prove to the Department of Education that they take sexual assault seriously. That witch hunt mentality has prompted more than 70 accused students to sue their schools for discrimination.
Merriman suggests that schools don't need due process because "survivors" (using the term based solely on accusations and without evidence) have it rough.
"We are not at a point to analyze 'due process,' when many survivors are publicly shamed on their campuses, when charges against assaulters can be dismissed out of hand by administrators, when an assaulter is allowed to sit across from a survivor and shout down their story," Merriman said.
We are exactly at a point to analyze due process when many accused students are publicly shamed on their campuses (even after they have been found "not responsible" by their schools and police investigations), when the word of an accuser is taken at face value despite evidence to the contrary and when accused students (Merriman calls them "assaulters," again, without evidence) aren't allowed to meaningfully cross-examine an accuser who may be lying.
Merriman adds: "If we are to truly believe in due process for all, we must prioritize the needs of survivors first and foremost."
What? That doesn't even make sense. Due process for all means due process for all, not due process for only accusers.
If opponents of the bill, like Merriman, think due process is such a hindrance to justice, why aren't they calling for its removal in all aspects of the legal system?