“My Son was Falsely Accused of Rape”
February 18, 2014
It’s hard to ignore the impact censorship has on our colleges and universities. The numbers are clear—59% of colleges maintain clearly unconstitutional speech codes. The cases are shocking—a student ordered to stop handing out Constitutions on Constitution Day. The policies are absurd—banning “inappropriate behavior or expression” and “harsh text messages or emails.” But there’s an even deeper impact that these facts and figures don’t often convey: the profound personal effect of disregarding fundamental rights on campus. Worse, that callous disregard is not even limited to our students’ free speech rights.
My son and I learned that lesson all too well.
In early 2010, my son Caleb was accused of sexual assault by a fellow student at the University of North Dakota (UND). Caleb claimed the encounter was entirely consensual, and the evidence collected created significant doubt about the accusations against him. Nonetheless, just weeks after the initial charges, Caleb was found guilty by a campus board, suspended for three years, and banned from stepping foot on any North Dakota public campus. Yet, during that same period, the local police began a formal investigation, reviewed the evidence, and chose not to charge Caleb. In fact, they charged my son’s accuser with filing a false report and issued a warrant for her arrest.
Yes, you read that right. The very same evidence that had been used to end my son’s academic career and brand him as a rapist was judged by local police as completely without merit.
How could Caleb be both guilty and innocent? Because all it takes to prove guilt on today’s campuses is 50.01% “certainty.” Without any consideration for the basic principles of American justice, UND had ruled that it was “more likely than not” that my son was guilty of assault. So much for “beyond a reasonable doubt” and due process.
While the university’s charges were difficult enough, nothing could have prepared us for UND’s shocking response to our request for a rehearing of Caleb’s case. Despite the police’s vindication of my son’s innocence, the administration refused to review his case and denied his request to return to UND. Denied the chance to uphold my son’s rights, I had never felt more helpless as a mother….
Sadly, there are still plenty of battles on today’s campuses. In the years since Caleb’s case, we’ve seen reports of mishandledcases, suitsalleging absurd rights violations, and personal testimonials from concerned parents just like me. These cases have made it clear—in the move to preserve campus safety, a necessary and important goal, our campuses are unnecessarily sacrificing individual rights. In fact, due process is under attack.