- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2000

Now that we're all experts in constitutional law, having learned from the lyrics of the Supremes in black robes, we should apply our attention to a group of Americans who are being denied their due process rights under the Constitution.

The villains are not sly politicians manipulating the votes of citizens, but educated academicians at one of our finest universities, bent on depriving college students of their legal rights. The law is untidy, imperfect and even ambiguous, as we all now know, but in a democracy we agree to abide by the rule of law. Columbia University, in its intellectual wisdom, knows better. Students who are accused of sexual misconduct must be "re-educated" and "rehabilitated" outside the law.

Sexual misconduct is described at Columbia as unwanted physical conduct and "no" can be conveyed by "the victim's mental or physical incapacity or impairment of which the perpetrator was aware or should have been aware" (italics mine). Imagine what could happen by misinterpreting a drunken yes, yes, yes?

If a student is accused of such sexual misconduct, he's on his own. He can't confront his accusers, or cross-examine witnesses. He is deprived of legal counsel. Nobody reads him his Miranda rights. On an appeal, which only a dean can call, he's still deprived of a lawyer. The women who created this policy with the support of George Rupp, president of the university, dismiss due process and other fundamental legal rights, as unnecessary "red tape." They actually encourage their army of militants to wear red tapes on their backpacks as a symbol of solidarity. (Cute?)

Critics, and there are growing numbers of them across the ideological spectrum, compare Columbia's legal maze with the judicial systems of Iraq, Iran, Cuba and North Korea. Instead of reading Kafka and Orwell as literature, Columbia students are living it. Hyperbole? A little. But only a little.

The university administrators defend their new policy as having the two laudable purposes of education and rehabilitation. Discipline at the university is regarded as "something that is educational as opposed to punitive," Patricia Catapano, an associate general counsel at Columbia and one of the authors of the new policy, told the Boston Globe. "Rarely does a university consider that a student cannot be rehabilitated." Mao Zedong would understand.

Outrage has united such disparate voices as John Silver, the chancellor of Boston University, Vivian Berger, a Columbia law professor and a member of the American Civil Liberties Union National Board, Edward Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, and artist and sex symbol Holly Hughes. They've railed against it in the Wall Street Journal, The New Republic and the Village Voice. Feminists have organized the Feminists for Free Expression (FEE) whose letterhead includes Attorney General Janet Reno, feminist icon Betty Friedan, novelist Erica Jong and screenwriter Nora Ephron.

In a stinging letter FEE accuses the university of denying due process and fundamental fairness. They argue that "it is no service to women to hold that offenses against them require a kangaroo court."

This, alas, is the kind of poison that could spread to other campuses. Academics have a weakness for anything that vaguely tastes good. Columbia has exploited court decisions which give wide latitude to campus "judiciaries," and defends its kangaroo courts as more lenient than tribunals that would treat accused students like criminals. Instead, they treat students as political prisoners at the mercy of their accusers.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education the acronym appropriately is FIRE excoriates the Columbia judiciary panels "made up of deans and students, who resemble tribunals in the the days of witchcraft trials." These panels claim to be "specially trained" on sexual matters, not matters of law. Hence, the kangaroos are imbued with a "special mission" to attack a social problem, not achieve individual justice.

Vivian Berger, who has written widely on the subject of rape, writes in the Columbia Daily Spectator that the university patronizes women "by treating them like children, who are sometimes permitted to testify outside the presence of the allegedly abusive defendant."

Feminism, so we were told, was meant to liberate women to stand up for themselves. Columbia University wants to go back to the future to introduce women as the "second sex."

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