STUDY: Most top schools deny ‘basic elements’ of due process

Nikita Vladimirov
Investigative Reporter

  • A new study of top universities in the U.S. found that “the overwhelming majority” of schools do not provide students with “the most basic elements” of due process.
  • According to FIRE, not a single one of the 53 schools surveyed receives an "A" grade for safeguarding the rights of the accused, and just 2 received a "B" grade on their sexual misconduct policies.
  • Laura Dunn, a legal advocate for victims, takes issue with FIRE's insistence on a "presumption of innocence," however, arguing that it "advantages the accused only."
  • A new study of top universities in the U.S. found that “the overwhelming majority” of schools do not provide students with “the most basic elements” of due process.

    The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) concluded that “nearly three-quarters (73.6%) of America’s top 53 universities do not even guarantee students that they will be presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

    "Of the 102 policies rated at the 53 schools in the report, not a single policy receives an A grade."   

    Additionally, FIRE found that a vast majority of top universities “maintain policies that receive a D or F grade for due process protections.”

    [RELATED: Title IX group publishes playbook for state lawmakers]

    “Most institutions have one set of standards for adjudicating charges of sexual misconduct and another for all other charges,” FIRE explains. “[Seventy-nine] percent of rated universities receive a D or F for protecting the due process rights of students accused of sexual misconduct.”

    The study primarily focused on examining the 53 top institutions that are ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s National University Rankings.

    FIRE’s rating system was based on an analyses of “10 critically important procedural safeguards,” including “a clearly stated presumption of innocence,” the right “to impartial fact-finders,” the ability “to pose relevant questions to witnesses” and more.

    [RELATED: DeVos sets stage to rewrite Obama-era sexual assault guidance]

    “For each element, institutions received zero points if the safeguard was absent, was too narrowly defined to substantially protect students, or was subject to the total discretion of an administrator; one point if the policy provided some protection with respect to that element; and two points if the safeguard was clearly and completely articulated,” FIRE explained.

    Remarkably, the study revealed that “of the 102 policies rated at the 53 schools in the report, not a single policy receives an A grade,” while only two schools “received a B for both their policies, governing alleged sexual misconduct and non-sexual misconduct.”

    Laura Dunn, an executive director of SurvJustice and a legal advocate for the victims of sexual assault, challenged some of the FIRE’s proposed safeguards, including the “clearly stated presumption of innocence” for the accused.

    “A presumption of innocence advantages the accused only, and Title IX requires equity,” Dunn said in an email to Inside Higher Ed. “No presumption should be made either way, and schools should engage in an inquisitorial process to determine the truth rather than artificially favor the accused going into it.”

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @nikvofficial



    Nikita Vladimirov

    Nikita Vladimirov

    Investigative Reporter
    Nikita Vladimirov is an Investigative Reporter for Campus Reform. Prior to joining Campus Reform, he wrote for The Hill, where he extensively covered the latest political developments in U.S. and around the world. Vladimirov's work has appeared on the front pages of The Drudge Report and The Hill, and has been featured by several media organizations including Fox News, MSN, Real Clear Politics and others. He has also appeared as a political commentator on numerous programs, including BBC radio.
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