President-elect Biden and his team are preparing to bring what he has called a “quick end” to the new rules requiring fair, nondiscriminatory campus procedures for students accused of sexual assault that the Betsy DeVos Education Department issued in May.
But the results of a little-noticed but stunning poll suggest that on this issue, Biden is far out of step with the electorate, not to mention the courts and fundamental fairness. In one major survey, 68% of the 2,532 Americans polled in mid-November by YouGov agreed that “students accused of crimes on college campuses should receive the same civil liberties protections from their colleges that they receive in the court system.” Only 8% disagreed. The rest neither agreed nor disagreed.
The responses to this and the poll’s four other questions show broad public support for providing accused students with civil liberties protections even more robust than those required by the DeVos rules. Four other surveys since 2017 have also found strong support for campus due process.
Meanwhile, federal and state court judges across the country, including appointees of Presidents Clinton and Obama and their predecessors, have severely criticized many aspects of the campus sexual assault regimes imposed by most universities under pressure from the Obama-Biden administration, student activists, and many of their own professors and bureaucrats.
Accused students have won at least 194 favorable rulings in state and federal courts, including four federal appeals courts that expressed this summer “concerns that universities, however well-intentioned, had discriminated against an accused student on account of his sex, in violation of Title IX,” as KC Johnson has reported.
But the opinions of the electorate and of the courts are apparently less important to Biden than the fervor of the powerful interest groups that presume male guilt – Democratic legislators, accusers’ rights groups, university leaders, radical feminists, and more. Biden has personally bad-mouthed the DeVos rules, which leading civil libertarians have praised, as aiming “to shame and silence survivors” and “strip [them] of their rights.”
Biden led the Obama administration drive to require colleges to deny accused students a meaningful chance to defend themselves, thereby dramatically increasing the risk they’d be found guilty, even if they were actually innocent. The administration “threatened to withdraw federal funding from schools that resisted these directives, ‘strongly’ discouraging cross-examination and urging colleges to handle Title IX cases without a hearing and through a ‘trauma-informed’ approach that presented virtually any behavior as consistent with the accused student’s guilt,” as Johnson wrote.
It does not appear that the bias of Biden and other Democratic politicians against accused males has cost them much politically, perhaps because the mainstream media have largely ignored the issue. The new poll strongly suggests that most Americans support even more protections for possibly innocent accused students than are required by the DeVos rules and by many court decisions.
YouGov, which is highly respected across the political spectrum, conducted the poll on behalf of Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE), a little-known nonprofit that has been very active in supporting the DeVos reforms adopted for campus sexual assault proceedings. While SAVE’s agenda is no secret, its president, Edward Bartlett, pointed out in an interview that the five questions SAVE told YouGov to use in the November poll were taken almost verbatim from five of the questions that YouGov had included in a broader survey of 1,200 people conducted on behalf of Bucknell College in July-August 2017, with similar results.
In addition to the overwhelming majority of respondents who agreed that colleges should afford accused students the same civil liberties protections as the court system – that is, more protections than have ever been required even by the DeVos rules or by any court – the responses to the poll’s four other questions also show strong support for fairness to accused students.
A strong plurality (49%) of respondents agreed that students accused of sexual assault on college campuses “should have the right to cross-examine their accusers,” while 24% disagreed and 27% neither agreed nor disagreed.
Biden and many other Democrats have vowed to ban any cross-examination of accusers. The DeVos rules require campuses to allow representatives of accused students, but not the students themselves, to conduct a cross-examination. Some court decisions would also subject accusers to direct cross-examination by the accused.
Three-fourths of respondents to the YouGov poll agreed that “students accused of sexual assault on college campuses should be punished only if there is clear and convincing evidence that they are guilty of a crime.” Only 5% disagreed. (The DeVos rules would generally allow colleges to find accused students guilty by a lower burden of proof, “preponderance of the evidence,” and very few if any colleges require more.)
More than four out of five respondents agreed that “students accused of sexual assault on college campuses should have the right to know the charge against them before being called to defend themselves.” (The DeVos rules require colleges to give accused students the same right.)
And when asked “which, if either, of these [two] statements comes closest to your own opinion,” 67% said that “allegations of sexual assault on campus should be primarily handled by the state or local police.” Only one-third said that “universities should take a leading role” in investigating such allegations.” (In reality, almost all universities routinely take a leading role in such cases.)
Will Biden heed public opinion on this issue? He never has. And he has never given the slightest weight to the possibility that some accused men may be innocent -- with one exception. That was Biden’s denial of the unverified allegations by his former aide Tara Reade, who has claimed that the then-senator sexually assaulted her in 1993.
Weak as Reade’s allegations are, chances are that under the guilt-presuming regime that Biden plans to reinstitute, hundreds of college students facing equally weak allegations will be expelled by campus kangaroo courts. A man who has paid as much attention to campus sexual assault as Biden must know that.