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A few weeks ago, in response to news that the State Legislature would pass Campus Carry, someone suggested that the State Legislature not stop with applying the 2nd Amendment to college campuses, but should apply the 1st Amendment as well. I think we should go even further — Both the State Legislature and the U. S. Congress should pass legislation cutting off all public funding to any school which fails to use the U. S. Bill of Rights as the basis for the rights of college students, staff, and faculty, especially in disciplinary proceedings.
For example, a few years ago, when I was a department head at Tarleton, I was summoned to a meeting wherein the presenter announced a new program in which faculty were encouraged to report students who had undergone significant changes in mood and behavior. Those students so reported would be investigated to determine if they had suddenly become terrorists or at least thinking of becoming terrorists, the theory being that commitment to terrorism is preceded by behavioral changes. After learning that no safeguards were in place to protect students wrongfully accused or to allow them to confront their accusers, I declined to participate in this program. I have no idea whether it still exists, but the fact that it was implemented, even if only for a brief time, indicates that those responsible had a serious problem with civil liberties, which could in turn create a serious problem for anyone accused or who could be accused (in other words, everyone).
Moreover, Tarleton is part of the Texas A&M University System, whose leadership has established procedures and equipment by which faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to report, via telephone or computer, what they consider to be suspicious or illegal behavior anonymously, with no fear their names will be revealed. A person anonymously accused of misusing his university-issued computer may have his office entered without a warrant, his computer seized without a warrant, and its hard drive searched without a warrant. System legal hacks and their apologists say the system is well within its rights to do this—after all, the office and computer belong to the system, not the person investigated. Nonetheless, the person investigated is presumed guilty until proven innocent, and is denied the right to learn exactly who his accuser was in the first place. Civil liberties, anyone?
In fairness to both Tarleton and the TAMUS, I must admit I know of no case in which someone falsely accused of phony charges has actually been disciplined, but matters are worse elsewhere. In the past few years we’ve learned of a wave of phony rape charges, at Columbia University, at the University of Virginia, and wherever Lena Dunham happens to be. In these cases men who are charged with raping women are likewise presumed guilty until proven innocent. They are frequently denied the opportunity to confront their accusers or have legal counsel represent them at student disciplinary hearings. They may be judged on whether the “preponderance of evidence” is against them—not whether they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt—frequently by staff and students poorly trained in these matters. In one of the most bizarre cases recently, as reported by Reason Magazine, a libertarian publication (http://reason.com/blog/2015/06/11/amherst-student-was-expelled-for-rape-bu), a male student was expelled from Amherst College in Massachusetts after a female student claimed he sexually assaulted her, despite the fact that immediately after the incident she had telephoned friends indicating she had performed a sexual act on him after he had passed out drunk!
The evils produced by denying college students, faculty, and staff of basic civil liberties should be obvious. Workplaces where productivity drops because nobody can trust anyone else, disrupted and possibly destroyed lives and careers, and a decreased ability to see rape as the true evil it is because of the rise of false accusations which obscure the truth are only a few. But fortunately there is a remedy: Almost all institutions of higher education, whether they are public or so-called private, receive state and federal aid in one form or another. Such aid should come with a very important string attracted: The recipients must develop and implement procedures to guarantee that whosoever is accused of wrongdoing be allowed to confront his accuser, to defend himself with competent legal counsel, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and to be found innocent if reasonable doubt of his guilt be determined. Those who sit in judgment must be required to become well versed in due process. They can start by reading our Bill of Rights.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.