Higher Education, Joshua Sharf, Original Report, Uncategorized

Sharf: Colorado higher ed circles the Title IX wagons

The Colorado Department of Higher Education has announced its appointments to its Title IX review committee, and they seem likely to reinforce the system’s bias against college men. This shouldn’t be too surprising coming from a governor who’s OK with campus kangaroo courts. Indeed, last year, Gov. Polis signed a bill that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes will enshrine such courts into law:

“As FIRE has written repeatedly, the use of the preponderance of the evidence standard is unfair in settings that lack the many safeguards present in the civil and administrative hearings where the standard is typically employed. Additionally, the new law does not provide any meaningful procedural protections for students accused of sexual misconduct. Absent meaningful safeguards, mandating the use of the preponderance of the evidence standard is inappropriate.”

This committee is mandated in that same law, in response to the proposed changes by the federal Department of Education, concerning how schools should handle sexual harassment or sexual assault complaints. (The bureaucratic wheels grind slowly, and usually not all that exceedingly fine. These changes have been in the works for over a year, perhaps an indication of bureaucratic resistance to them.)

The committee appointments consist of eleven members:

  • Lara Baker, Attorney, Foster Graham Milstein & Calisher, LLP
  • Elle Heeg Miller, Nurse Practitioner, Health Center at Auraria
  • Julia Luciano, Victim Advocate, Advocates of Routt County
  • Monica Rivera, Director, Women and Gender Advocacy Center, Colorado State University
  • Cari Simon, Attorney, The Fierberg National Law Group
  • Raana Simmons, Director of Policy, Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault
  • Emily Tofte, Executive Director, Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center
  • Jeremy Enlow, Title IX Coordinator, University of Denver
  • Angela Gramse, General Counsel, Colorado Community College System
  • Ana Guevara, Director of Title IX, Adams State University
  • Valerie Simons, Associate Vice Chancellor and Title IX Coordinator, University of Colorado Boulder

Four are college or university Title IX administrators. Such administrators tend to support rules favoring the complainant and limiting the rights of the accused.

Such an approach can lead to campus rules, and rules interpretations, that deny men – and it’s usually men – accused of sexual assault the right to defend themselves, to introduce exculpatory evidence, or to allow their representatives to cross-examine their accusers.

The former has led colleges and universities to prevent men from testifying in their own defense, from introducing other witnesses, or even contemporaneous text messages that would indicate that sexual activity was consensual rather than coerced. The latter practice – preventing cross-examination – has often been justified on the grounds that it emotionally punishes the victim, ignoring the fact that calling the accuser a victim is itself already a conclusory judgment about what happened.

Valerie Simons of UC Boulder, for instance, gave an interview soon after coming on board in which she indicated that those were her priorities. In the entire interview, there is literally not one word of concern for the men who might be accused of such behavior, or for a process to safeguard their own rights. It’s unclear whether the several lawsuits that the UC system has seen from men suspended, expelled, or otherwise punished have taught her anything.

By contrast, Jeremy Enlow came to DU from the University of Kentucky, where his school was sued for not being sufficiently supine in the face of one woman student’s complaints. The case was eventually dismissed.

Five members are victims’ rights advocates, either from the medical or legal point of view.

One is a nurse practitioner, presumably there for technical expertise.

And Ms. Baker will be there as the lonely criminal defense attorney, trying to defend the rights of the accused.

Biased proceedings that deny the accused their basic rights have led to a slew of lawsuits on procedural grounds, about half of which have been decided for the plaintiff, and many others of which were settled out of court, including several here in Colorado.

Even as the rights of the accused must be safeguarded, nobody wants to ignore or excuse actual campus sexual assault. The evidence mounts that universities simply aren’t capable of handling this sort of complex investigation, one that requires fairness to both sides and full consideration of the evidence. Such accusations are better dealt with by law enforcement.

Mothers of sons in college or planning on going to college here in Colorado: Beware.

Joshua Sharf is a Denver resident.

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