A press release from FACE, Families Advocating for Campus Equality,* put the shocking news on my radar.
The SMART Office is exploring how institutions of higher education share, respond and coordinate information to prevent sexual assault perpetration. This project will collect information about current policies and practices utilized by colleges and universities regarding registered sex offenders who may be students or employees; individuals found responsible and sanctioned for campus sexual misconduct policy violations; and the review of criminal or disciplinary sexual misconduct history of prospective or current students.
The SMART program, DoJ’s Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking, one of the many horrific acronyms beloved by government, proposed to expand its sources to include information from colleges and universities about their handling of sexual misconduct on campus, including information about “individuals found responsible and sanctioned for campus sexual misconduct.” Are they talking about adding Title IX violators to the dreaded sex offender registries?
The indomitable Ashe Schow was already on the beat.
If — and this is a big if, because the DOJ contact person has not responded yet to a Daily Wire inquiry — this information is used to create some kind of campus sex offender registry, it would be an incredibly dangerous tool. There are already enough problems with sex offender registrations; add into that the poor training, political agendas, and low standard of evidence used in campus procedures, and you’re looking at a registry filled with students who had consensual sex but for various reasons — spite, jealousy, regret — were accused of sexual assault, and some legitimate perpetrators.
Ashe subsequently heard from the DoJ, which denied that it was seeking this information in order to create a campus Sex Offender Registry:
A representative from the SMART office responded to a Daily Wire inquiry and insisted that the information collected would not be used to create a sex offender registry for college students, despite concerns. The representative said the department was just collecting information on the policies and procedures used at various colleges and universities, and assured The Daily Wire this information would not be shared with other departments or agencies.
Problem solved? Not exactly. It may well be that there are no plans, at this time, to take the information they’re collecting to the next step, but then, why bother collecting the information at all? Campus policies are in a constant state of flux, particularly as colleges have their practice held unconstitutional by federal courts nationwide and are forced to adjust to the demands of due process after they were told under the Obama administration that basic due process protections were unfair to accusers and could hurt their feelings.
Yet, they are creating a reporting system between colleges and DoJ to no apparent end? To include a list of names of offenders would require one additional question once the system is in place. Not a big burden. But more significantly, the disavowal of any intention to create a secondary sex offender registry, or worse yet, to add students held “responsible” by campus adjudications to “real” sex offender registries, might be true for the moment, but staffs change, administrations change, and they can always change their mind if the winds blow the right direction.
While Ashe notes that there remain a few too many “ifs” at present to fear the sky is falling, there is similarly no justification for the SMART office, whose reason for existence is to perpetuate SORA, one of the most dangerously destructive schemes created by government, to engage in any actions relating to campus adjudications at all. Bear in mind, this isn’t a DoJ office whose purpose is to oversee unconstitutional disciplinary measures, but to track sex offenders. What legitimate purpose could possibly be served by their becoming involved in campus adjudications?
While the SMART office may claim that its purpose is benign now, even if they offer no rational justification for their involvement, the government has a nasty history of taking information gathered and putting it to use. Once someone realizes they’ve created the pathway to collect the names of campus “sex offenders,” it’s merely a baby step to doing something with it. Indeed, government often finds itself incapable of restraint once it has the means to do damage.
The FACE concerns, that the creation of any connection between the DoJ and campus Title IX adjudications is fraught with potential problems (including a serious fear that someday, if not today, the information will find its way onto a sex offender registry), are legitimate. There is no reason for DoJ, in general, or the SMART office, in particular, to create any connection, any pathway, to campus Title IX adjudictions. No good can come of it, and a great deal of bad is possible.
The DoJ is taking comments to its proposal to become embroiled in campus Title IX adjudications through August 31st. Comments can be sent to:
This is a bad idea now, and offers enormous, and entirely unjustifiable, potential for abuse in the future. The time to fix problems is before they happen, even if the government swears it would never, but never, do anything bad with the information it gathers.
The Sex Offender Registry is destroying the lives of people who have paid their debt to society, as well as their families, and creating a “living death penalty” by impairing employment, licensure, housing and even the ability to live within towns where there is no location more than 1000 feet from a school. It’s a nightmare, and it applies to people who present no threat to anyone. This could bring students “convicted” by campus kangaroo courts within this nightmare scenario, which would prove even more disastrous.
Let the SMART program know your thoughts on their taking the first step down a path that will only lead to more outrageous and needless damage.
*In a very short time, FACE has come a very long way as an advocacy organization for students accused of sexual misconduct on campus. Beginning as a “mommy org,” it’s gained substantial sophistication in dealing with Title IX. I attribute this to the effort of co-president Cynthia Garrett, and applaud her efforts.