A Georgia legislator responsible for appropriating state funds to colleges and universities is threatening to halt budget discussions with his state's schools unless they adopt basic due process protections for accused students.
State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on Higher Education, told college presidents in no uncertain terms to adopt such protections.
"You think you've got an issue with federal bureaucrats threatening your federal funds?" Ehrhart said at the close of a hearing on due process. "This committee controls your funds, Mr. President, and I want to see a clear statement from all of you — beyond what the [Board of] Regents is requiring — before I'm even going to have a conversation with you about your budgets, presidents."
Ehrhart said he wouldn't even talk to college presidents until they adopt "simple, basic due process protections."
"If you don't protect the students of this state with due process, don't come looking for money," Ehrhart added.
This is the clearest declaration by any legislator in the country regarding the protection of due process rights for students accused of misconduct on college campuses. The hearing on Monday focused on two cases at Georgia Tech, one involving accusations of racism and the other involving an accusation of sexual misconduct.
In the racism charge, a student accused members of a fraternity of hurling racial insults at her. Jonathan Hawkins, the fraternity's attorney, testified that Georgia Tech investigators ignored evidence that showed the incident could not have occured, including surveillance video showing the accuser walking past the fraternity without incident, and witnesses who were there that day and saw nothing. Given the lack of evidence, and because Georgia Tech couldn't identify any individuals responsible, they punished the entire fraternity.
The mother of the student accused of sexual misconduct also spoke. She told a story of her son helping a drunk woman home when she had lost her key. The accused student let the woman wait at his apartment until her roommate returned home to let her in, so that the woman wouldn't be alone outside in the cold. Sometime later, another young woman accused the student of holding the alleged victim against her will, despite text messages from the drunk woman thanking the accused student for his help.
The text messages were not allowed as evidence in the hearing. Even the alleged victim didn't even believe she was the victim of anything. Yet on the word of a third party, the accused student was suspended.
Such accusations and kangaroo trials are becoming increasingly common on college campuses and illustrate the dire need for due process protections. Rep. Ehrhart is taking a giant step forward in threatening to pull funding from colleges that don't protect their students.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.