A survey conducted for FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, would appear, on its face, to be pretty good news.
A new survey from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education finds that a vast majority of college students support fundamental due process protections in campus disciplinary hearings in order to ensure they are fair.
By “vast majority,” it might appear they mean “vast majority.”
Ninety-eight percent of students said they believe the right to due process in college was “very important” or “important.”
Well, that certainly seems to be a vast majority, right? Or maybe not.
For every protection except one — the right of the accused to make copies of evidence in a sexual misconduct case — a majority of students supported the protections. Despite that majority, the sexual misconduct scenario yielded lower student support in almost all categories. When considering a sexual misconduct case:
- 80 percent support the presumption of innocence, compared to an average of 85 percent of respondents across all three scenarios.
- 48 percent support the right to make copies of evidence, compared to 60 percent over all.
- 68 percent support cross-examination, compared to 75 percent over all.
- 72 percent support a unanimous decision required for expulsion, compared to 78 percent over all.
Samantha Harris tries to offer an explanation for this seemingly inexplicable differential.
“We all tend to support rights more or understand the need for critical rights more when we can put ourselves in a situation where we might need those rights,” Harris said. “Generally speaking, it might be easier to put oneself in the situation of being accused of breaking a rule, something general like that, than of a specific and heinous type of misconduct.”
It has always been a rule of life that people only care about such things when it touches their lives, and as Sam says, most people don’t see themselves as being the accused in a rape complaint. While this may be true, this is an unsatisfying explanation. We’re not talking about tithing their future earnings to Due Process For Rapists, but about a concept, due process. It costs nothing to support the concept, as reflected in the broad support for everything but sexual misconduct.
Hence, I offer two alternative explanations, neither of which speak well to the sensibilities of the little darlings. First, there’s the indoctrination problem. Everything is rape. Every woman is raped. All the time. By everyone (except you, natch). Every raped woman’s life is destroyed, as they huddle in corners sobbing because of their PTSD. And most importantly, anyone who doesn’t grasp this “truth” is a rapist who should be castrated before being burned at the stake. Plus, you’ll never get another date.
Hyberbolic, for sure, but that’s the point of the indoctrination. Keep pounding away and the problem becomes so overarching, so overwhelming, that there can be no room for fundamental fairness. What person could possibly concern themselves with fairness as an epidemic of rape overtakes every woman on campus?
But none of this is real? That’s just, like, your opinion, man.
The second explanation is that students don’t actually understand due process. Given that they can’t name three branches of government (did they miss that day in their gender studies and Nietzsche class?), this should come as no surprise. While they may have a general sense of “fairness is good,” it becomes less good when it fails to achieve an outcome they believe to be necessary.
This way of thinking reflects a failure to grasp what due process means, as there can be no belief in due process if it only applies when it achieves an agreeable outcome. Sometimes the bad guy wins. Sometimes, the outcome isn’t what you believe it should be.
Scott Lewis, a partner with the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, and co-founder of the Association for Title IX Administrators, said recent events may also affect student support.
“Given the context of recent events like the Me Too movement and Times Up movement and the increase of reporting of sexual assault in particular, students are interested in more accountability,” Lewis said.
Lewis unintentionally recognizes the problem. It’s not that students aren’t in favor of due process. It’s that they are all for due process provided it holds the people they have been taught to hate accountable. Everybody loves due process as long as the people you know are the bad guys get burned, as is their due.