It’s time we culled these kangaroo courts at universities

It’s time we culled these kangaroo courts at universities, by Amanda Stoker.

Our society has the power, by force of law, to strip us of our freedom. The safeguards of our criminal justice system give us comfort that the law-abiding won’t be punished as criminals. Even if you were to be accused, the system is designed to ensure that every innocent person is acquitted. It mostly works.

That protection isn’t offered in our universities. …

If you are a university student accused of [sexual assualt], the university applies its code of conduct and disciplinary policies, which operate very differently. Depending on the institution you attend, you may have no right to access the evidence against you and no way to test its reliability or quality. There are no rules of evidence, so you can’t check whether the investigator is using unreliable data. Edith Cowan University and the University of Queensland do not permit legal representation. The standard of proof applied by investigators at the University of Sydney is the balance of probabilities, regardless of the seriousness of the allegation. …

The independence of a university decision-maker is far from ­assured. The University of Sydney Student Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Response Procedures at section 7(5) indicate that the appropriate response to an allegation is to let “the student know they believe what the student is telling them” and to let “the student know that the incident was not their fault”.

While these are no doubt well-intentioned efforts to support victims, policies like these assume the truth of factual questions that may ultimately be false and in­advertently create an environment in which a fair go for an accused is not assured. …

An adverse finding can mean the loss of the right to continue one’s studies, or to graduate; forfeiture of the money and time invested in study; denial of the ability to achieve one’s goals of practice in the profession for which they have trained. The destruction of personal reputation that comes with a sloppily made disciplinary finding can be life-­destroying. These are serious penalties, and justify rigour in the way these issues are resolved. …

There is no reason why one would expect a university to have the skill set necessary to determine factual issues arising from allegations of sexual assault. Plagiarism, maybe, but not serious crime.

Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. The old churches learned that lesson long ago. The new churches of the new PC religion are the universities, and they need to learn the same lesson. The state has long evolved procedures for establishing truth and meting out punishments in such situations. The universities should let police and courts handle any crimes.

If actions are not crimes, but merely violate the latest fashion PC trends, then the universities should be up front about saying so, instead of pretending they are crimes. The universities are assuming too much unearned authority.

If universities want to punish students for actions that aren’t crimes, then spell it out clearly on advertising material and in orientation week:

No justice here! If we disapprove of anything you do — and our standards change constantly, so stay tuned to social media — then we will chuck you out! It’s our club, and thanks for all the tax money.

Just typical. There is an existing system evolved by long trial and error. But the left throw it aside and, because they know better, set up some justice system they dreamed up in the shower last Thursday. Robert Conquest’s first law: “Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.”