Following the release of Betsy DeVos’s proposed changes to Title IX, many students are questioning the standard of preponderance of evidence
Sexual assault on Christopher Newport’s campus is a serious issue. If it is perpetrated, the perpetrator should be dismissed from this campus, end of story. Given the severity of this proposed punishment, however, it should be as close to certain that this crime did occur. The current standard of preponderance of the evidence simply doesn’t do that.
The standard of preponderance of evidence is met only if the accusation is more likely to be true than untrue. This means that even in cases where the accusation is doubted by the University by 49%, a permanent black mark could be on someone’s record. If the truth could even theoretically fit the facts, if the story given is more likely to be true than not, the student is guilty. That is a low standard for ending someone’s future.
This is not to say that accusations of sexual assault are false often or even more than 1% of the time. However, it is wrong, point blank, to end a student’s future on what is more likely than not. It is more likely than not that coin lands on heads as that side it was flipped from. If a student is accused and the odds of them having done anything wrong are the same as those on a coin flip, that student can be forced to leave the university. Is that really the kind of place you want to go to school?
All of that withstanding, sexual assault is almost impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt for a multitude of reasons. Including the fact that most of these incidents involve alcohol, which throws witness testimony into question. With this standard, too many cases will result in a rapist being allowed to continue their time at Christopher Newport University, even if there is not enough evidence to send that rapist to jail. There is, however, a standard between beyond a reasonable doubt and preponderance of the evidence. Clear and convincing evidence shows an event as highly and substantially more probable than not. It allows for the room required to find more people guilty of sexual assault, while making sure that those people are indeed actually guilty. That is the standard we here at CNU should adopt.