Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

Letter to the Editor: Alumnus responds to ASSU statement on DeVos, Title IX

Dear Editor,

I write in response to an article written by three current and former ASSU members last week regarding Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s recent comments on Title IX enforcement on college campuses. It is disappointing that these students, who ostensibly represent the entire undergraduate population, have chosen to entrench themselves on one side of the debate over the proper adjudication of campus sexual assault.

These student leaders proclaim that they “stand with survivors,” as all of us should. Students who have truly been sexually victimized and violated deserve our sympathy and support, and their attackers deserve whatever punishment the school deems just.

But that is only half of the equation. What the ASSU members miss completely is that for each and every alleged victim, there is an accused student who deserves robust due process protections before they are subjected to life-altering punishment.

Unfortunately, Stanford’s student Title IX process fails to provide certain, important aspects of due process to accused students. For instance, Stanford’s procedures do not explicitly permit accused students to challenge any “interim measures” imposed by the University, including indefinite suspensions; do not permit accused students’ attorneys to “speak or advocate” on their behalf in campus proceedings; allow only limited use of expert witnesses; give accused students very little time (24 hours) to challenge the participation of hearing panel members; do not allow direct cross-examination; do not allow accused students to directly confront adverse witnesses and do not guarantee that all of the accused student’s questions for the alleged victim or witnesses will be asked.

This lack of basic due process safeguards creates a fundamentally unfair disciplinary system that is ripe for legal challenges, which often leads alleged victims to feel re-victimized and colleges to expend significant resources defending themselves in court. That’s a no-win situation for all parties.

Incredibly, the ASSU members imply that these due process protections — which the DeVos-led Department of Education may strengthen in the coming years — “[provide a] voice to those who shame and silence survivors.” Such a statement not only reveals the ASSU members’ blind support of alleged victims but also completely mischaracterizes the efforts of accused students and their advocates. The accused and their supporters aim to protect their fundamental right to a fair and impartial disciplinary process and decision, not shame victims into silence.

More centrally, however, the ASSU members’ article errors in this critical way: Standing with survivors and for the rights of accused students are not mutually exclusive. We can, simultaneously, continue working towards the complete eradication of sexual assault on Stanford’s campus while strengthening the due process protections afforded to accused students. There is nothing inherently contradictory about those two goals — something that is all too often lost in the fierce debate on campus sexual assaults.

The ASSU members should be applauded for standing with survivors, but they should also endeavor to represent the entire student body by advocating for stronger procedural and substantive due process for all involved parties.

— Cameron Miller ‘16

 

Contact Cameron Miller at ccmiller94 ‘at’ alumni.stanford.edu.