Last week, President Joe Biden nominated Catherine Lhamon to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights within the Department of Education. Lhamon held the same position under the Obama Administration during which she launched a full-scale attack against due process protections afforded to college students accused of sexual assault.
In 2011, the DOE issued a “Dear Colleague” letter which lowered the burden of proof for campus kangaroo courts to “preponderance of evidence” and incentivized schools to wrongly convict students of crimes in order to avoid retaliation from the Department of Education. When Lhamon was appointed as Assistant Secretary in 2013, she took full advantage of the new guidelines to make certain that colleges would always “believe the accuser.” In a 2014 meeting, Lhamon reportedly told attendees that withholding federal funding from schools that refused to endorse the administration’s convoluted view of onus probandi was not an “empty threat.” As a result, the accused faced cases in illegitimate courts which ignored evidence, afforded scant preparation time to defendants, and even failed to inform the accused of the specific allegations levied against them resulting in a bevy of lawsuits filed against the DOE.
In 2017 under President Trump, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded the Obama-era guidelines and raised the burden of proof in campus courts requiring “clear and convincing evidence” for a conviction, a higher threshold than the “preponderance of evidence” standard pushed during the Obama years. The move reinstated the rule of law and ensured that college students would be afforded the same legal protections as the rest of society. However, the victory seems to be short lived as Biden’s nomination of Catherine Lhamon suggests that his DOE will follow the model set by his former boss.
In previous articles, I outlined the authoritarian nature of university courts on issues involving free speech on campus. The toxic woke movement continues to inject itself into the younger generation, and school faculty and administrators are responsible for the totalitarian policies which cut down on free thought, encourage self-censorship, and thus inspire a culture based on groupthink. If our country intends to entirely abandon the spirit of debate for the sake of others’ comfort, we run the risk of eradicating critical thinkers from the workforce. Despite often appearing controversial, the social reforms headed by President Trump should be regarded as beneficial for our nation since they returned the focus of federal agencies back to the ideals of our forefathers. Instead of reducing the status of certain “privileged” groups to achieve the ever-elusive concept of equity, Trump valued true equality and sought to give all Americans the ability to achieve success through hard work. Necessary to the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is the due process clause which prohibits the arbitrary deprivation of any of these inalienable rights by the government without the authorization of law. By allowing colleges to ruin the lives of students without evidence, the foundations of the land of opportunity are eroded, threatening the very reason America has continued to stand as a nation welcoming to all. Therefore, in the interest of protecting the future of higher education in this country and the future of this country overall, conservatives must push back on Biden’s progressive agenda to prevent colleges from becoming the ultimate arbiters of truth for their students.
If you or someone you know has fallen victim to unjust kangaroo courts on campus, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) provides educational and legal resources to help students stand their ground against cancel culture.