In a world of maggots, the dead are delicious. It seems no one is off limits from the accusers of sexual misconduct these days – not even the dead. In a sweeping away of statute of limitations, some thirty or forty years later, sexual misconduct accusers feel emboldened by our current sexual McCarthyism on college campuses and are hungrily gnawing on the remaining bits of flesh left on the dead bones of esteemed faculty or administrators.
But let’s remind ourselves about where this panic started. The panic over campus sex birthed a blatantly unconstitutional and maggot-like reaction with the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter , a document that guides schools to deny due process rights to those accused of sexual misconduct, so as to increase the number of cases reported on college campuses. Cases can now be handled without any concerns about the rights of the accused (almost all male). Although fundamental to our constitutional rights as individuals, due process has been effectively denied to a large segment of the adult population – students in college. As a consequence, thousands of accused students have been denied the right to a lawyer, denied the right of cross-examination, and denied the right to provide clear and convincing evidence of their innocence.
Now the panic has extended back in time – to past or deceased faculty, staff, and administrators of colleges and universities. In every case, the accused are dead or very old (kick ’em when their down) even though they are typically esteemed faculty of the schools (with honoraries such as buildings or scholarships or chairs named after them). With no statute of limitations functioning within the college campus sex panic, an accusation can be made three or four decades later, and it doesn’t matter – as in the case of St. Olaf. In the recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, “Confronting Light and Dark,” St. Olaf is the subject for demonstrating this McCarthyist expansion on college campuses. In a sweeping finality to due process, and with no recourse for defending oneself since the accused (dead or almost dead) is simply assumed to be guilty because of an accusation, the accused will never be adjudicated fairly and justly.
At this point, we have to ask ourselves if individual liberty will ever be restored for accused men (young and old) in colleges and universities. I would argue that the best path immediately is to codify due process rights in state laws for anyone (young, old, or dead) accused of misconduct on college or university campuses. Otherwise, the maggots will continue feeding on the carrion of their own negative fantasies.