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Dartmouth’s embarrassing lack of regard for due process

Amanda Childress, a sexual abuse awareness coordinator at Dartmouth, asked this question at a University of Virginia conference on campus sexual misconduct: “Why could we not expel a student based on an allegation?” Childress explained:

It seems to me that we value fair and equitable processes more than we value the safety of our students. And higher education is not a right. Safety is a right. Higher education is a privilege.

It does not seem to have occurred to Childress that due process is a right.

The adults at Dartmouth, such as they are, promptly attempted to cover for Childress. College spokesman Justin Anderson said:

[S]he was not suggesting policy, but was asking a question—a provocative one—meant to generate dialogue around complex issues for which answers are necessary to continue to strengthen and promote fair and equitable processes at all colleges and universities.

But Childress wasn’t just asking a question. She was making a claim — that we overvalue “equitable processes” if we are unwilling to expel students based on allegations.

Moreover, no complex issues were raised by Childress’ question. The answer is obvious to anyone who understands the importance of due process. By defending Childress’ question, Dartmouth’s spokesman shows that he, like her, does not possess that understanding.

Does Dartmouth as an institution? I doubt it. This account, via Joe Asch at Dartblog, of the Inquisitional way assistant dean Kate Burke conducts disciplinary hearings shows that, at Dartmouth, contempt for due process extends beyond the musings of an ignorant sexual abuse awareness coordinator.

In trying to downplay Childress’ comment, the college spokesman noted that she plays no role in the judiciary process. But Burke plays a central role. If half of what is alleged in the Dartblog piece is true, the judicial process at Dartmouth is broken.

It’s bad enough that the Dartmouth bureaucracy has become bloated. It’s worse that, as Steve has warned, the bloat has been driven to a significant extent by out-of-control political correctness and, accordingly, has brought us administrators with little or no regard for “equitable processes.”

Instead of disciplining students for spitting on the sidewalk (as Burke allegedly threatened to do to a student who managed to escape disciplinary action), Dartmouth should discipline staff members who lack an understanding of the need for individual fairness and who embarrass the College by displaying that ignorance at conferences.

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