Contact: Gina Lauterio
Georgia Tech Reinstatement is Evidence of Growing Public Alarm over Due Process and Free Speech on Campus
WASHINGTON / January 6, 2016 – The recent decision to reinstate a Georgia Tech student expelled for an alleged sexual offense marks a growing wave of popular concern over the erosion of due process protections and free speech rights on college campuses.
Earlier this week the Georgia Tech Board of Regents overrode the decision by a school administrator who had recommended the expulsion of a student accused of sexual assault. The Board reinstated the student when it learned that the investigator failed to interview witnesses provided by the defendant and gave him only one hour to review a 13-page, single spaced summary of the investigation (1).
Numerous other judicial decisions or legal settlements in recent months have overturned the findings of campus sex tribunals for due process violations. The decisions involved the University of California-San Diego, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Washington and Lee University, University of Southern California, and Middlebury College (2).
Concerns over the loss of free speech rights are being voiced, as well. President Obama has twice called for the restoration of open debate on campuses, first at a town hall meeting on September 15 and more recently during a November 15 interview with George Stephanopoulos (3).
Legislators have also taken up the cause of restoring free speech. On June 2, 2015 the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on the state of free speech on college campuses (4).
In Missouri more than 100 members of the state Legislature signed a letter to the University of Missouri’s board of curators demanding the “immediate firing” of a professor who attempted to have a reporter forcibly removed during a student protest (5).
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri likewise urged the University of Missouri to not compromise the right to free expression in its efforts to fight racism, saying, “Mistakenly addressing symptoms — instead of causes — and doing it in a way that runs counter to the First Amendment is not the wise or appropriate response.” (6)
“Due process and free speech are part of the American DNA,” notes SAVE spokesperson Sheryle Hutter. “Lawmakers should not shrink from the challenge of restoring constitutionally-rooted rights and protections to college campuses.”