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New Study of College Students Finds That the Overwhelming Majority Want Due Process Rights

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A new survey conducted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) found that the majority of college students support the idea of fundamental changes to due process protections in order to ensure fair campus disciplinary hearings.

This survey, conducted by YouGov (California) using an online survey sent to two-and four-year undergraduate students attending universities and colleges in the United States between January 29 and February 12 of this year, received 2,225 responses.

“There’s a vast gulf between the robust protections that students want and to which they are morally entitled, and the meager protections that most colleges actually provide,” said Samantha Harris, FIRE’s vice president of policy research. “Campus proceedings can have permanent, life-altering consequences. It’s time for colleges and universities to start listening to their students and providing safeguards that reflect the seriousness of these processes.”

The survey measured student support for protections in three different scenarios:

  • Sexual misconduct cases
  • Underage drinking
  • Breaking school rules

“Sexual assault cases are too complicated and too emotionally charged for universities to conduct their own investigations,” said attorney Brad Koffel. “If a rape occurred on campus, trained law enforcement should be doing the investigation, not Title IX administrators. This also guarantees the constitutional protections for all students.”

Responses for each scenario reportedly varied by political affiliation and gender. According to FIRE, key findings include:

  • Compared to very conservative students, very liberal students were 13 percent more likely to believe that students charged with underage drinking should be considered innocent until proven guilty.
  • Compared to very liberal students, very conservative students were 19 percent more likely to believe that students charged with sexual misconduct should be considered innocent until proven guilty.
  • 75 percent of students supported cross-examination of witnesses. Only 33 percent of institutions included in FIRE’s survey provide this option.
  • More than 80 percent of students believe that advisers should be able to help in a student’s defense.
  • 84 percent of subtends believe that a campus disciplinary hearing’s primary purpose is to provide protection and justice to students on campus.
  • Female students are eight percent less likely to believe that students charged with sexual misconduct should be considered innocent until proven guilty compared to a student who has broken an unspecified rule.
  • 98 percent of all students believe that it is very important to ensure that students in campus judicial proceedings have due process protections.

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