Duke University Official Admits ‘It Would Be Easy’ To Remove Due Process Protections From Accused Students Under Biden Administration

A general view of the Duke Chapel on the campus of Duke University as snow falls from Winter Storm Diego on December 9, 2018 in Durham, North Carolina.
Lance King/Getty Images

A Duke University administrator said that the school limits due process protections for students accused of sexual misconduct and plans to remove those protections altogether once Democrat Joe Biden becomes president.

Kimberly Hewitt, vice president for institutional equity and chief diversity officer at Duke, told the student newspaper the Duke Chronicle that the Trump administration’s definition of sexual harassment was too narrow, but that Duke had maintained its own, broader definition despite Department of Education guidelines.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos narrowed the definition of sexual harassment to fall in line with the Supreme Court’s decision in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, which held that sexual harassment must be “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it can be said to deprive the victims of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school” in order for it to violate Title IX. While limiting the offenses schools should adjudicate, DeVos also included due process protections for accused students, such as the right to a live hearing to present their evidence of innocence and to be able to cross-examine their accuser and witness

Hewitt, however, said that Duke has avoided providing those due process protections by maintaining a broader definition of sexual harassment and only providing protections for those cases that meet the DeVos definition. She claimed to the Chronicle that the Supreme Court’s definition more narrowly defined “what we think of, traditionally, as sexual harassment.”

She says the Trump administration’s changes to Title IX “require live hearings with cross-examinations of witnesses” for allegations against campus employees and “when the facts of the case meet the revised definition of sexual harassment.”

Hewitt acknowledged to the Chronicle that Duke doesn’t provide the live hearing process to students who have been accused of sexual harassment that doesn’t meet the definition outlined by DeVos, which is, again, taken from the Supreme Court. Not only that, but Hewitt bragged that “the way we’ve structured our policy, it would be easy to remove the procedures that are [in accordance] with the new Title IX regulations from the Trump administration,” once Biden is in office and uses executive fiat to remove the DeVos regulations.

DeVos spent years working on the regulations that were released last year, making sure the procedures followed proper law, including a notice and comment period. DeVos spoke to all stakeholders, and her guidelines have withstood multiple lawsuits from accuser’s groups. The Obama administration’s 2011 Dear Colleague Letter did not follow the proper process before it was instituted, and well over 100 court rulings have favored accused students who have had their due process rights denied as a result of the Obama administration.

Biden plans to undo the properly instituted procedures of the Trump administration – which contain basic due process rights for accused students like cross-examination and knowing the actual allegations and evidence against them – with the stroke of a pen. He’s promised it. Schools like Duke will be more than happy to follow along.

It should be noted that Duke has an appalling history of treating accused students as guilty no matter what. Even after the infamous Duke lacrosse rape hoax, in which the university took the provably false allegations of a non-student over the evidence and denials of its own students, the school continued its disbelief of accused students. After the rape hoax, it revised its policies to make it easier for accused students to be punished without evidence of guilt or allowing them to defend themselves.

During testimony in a lawsuit brought by an expelled Duke student, then-Duke dean Sue Wasiolek (she is now an advisor to two Duke provosts) actually stated that men were responsible for getting consent from women and not vice versa. She had been asked what would happen if two students were incapacitated due to alcohol according to Duke’s policy and whether they would each be responsible for rape. Wasiolek replied: “Assuming it is a male and female, it is the responsibility in the case of the male to gain consent before proceeding with sex.”

Male students across the country need to be prepared for this kind of treatment.

H/t K.C. Johnson

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