The abandonment of due process on college campuses, one of the most disastrous consequences of the Obama Administration, may have claimed the life of a student at the University of Texas, Arlington.
Thomas Klocke, a straight male student at UTA, committed suicide after being punished for allegedly using homophobic slurs against a gay student, despite the fact that the university administrators who investigated the case admitted that there was no evidence to back up the allegation. The story was originally reported by Ashe Schow at Watchdog, and is worth reading in its full, shocking detail.
The accusation was made against Klocke by a gay male student at UTA, who claimed that during class, Klocke had typed “gays should die” into his laptop, called him a “faggot,” and told him to kill himself . No evidence was provided for these claims, and, according to Watchdog, the professor who was present at the time did not even provide a witness statement.
Klocke had a very different story. According to him, the gay student had made unwelcome sexual advances towards him, which he rebuffed. A lawsuit currently underway against the college from the victim’s family alleges that the rejection prompted the gay student to make up his accusation.
There appears to have been no adherence to proper procedure in the course of the accusation. In addition to the apparent disregard for evidence, to the point of not seeking a witness statement from the professor, it seems UTA’s Title IX coordinator was not informed of the accusations. This could be a major problem for UTA, which, as a public university, is bound by the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause.
Under UTA’s policies, the Title IX coordinator should have been responsible for overseeing the investigation and assigning an investigator. Instead, Klocke’s punishment was pushed through by Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Heather Snow, a friend of the accuser. (They were reportedly on first-name terms). Extraordinarily, Snow was allowed to both draft the gay student’s accusations against Klocke and take charge of the disciplinary procedures against him.
The violations of due process didn’t end there. Klocke was prohibited from contacting potential witnesses from his class. He was not given a hearing to defend himself. He was never informed that he was facing a Title IX investigation, or told what his rights were.
Inevitably, the administration found Klocke guilty of harassment, despite the lack of evidence, and placed on disciplinary probation. A few days later, Klocke committed suicide. UTA has called the incident “hearbreaking,” but insists that the university “followed its policies and procedures.”
They are now facing a lawsuit from his father, who alleges that his son was discriminated against.
The story is shocking in the extent of the violations that are alleged to have taken place. It is also a symptom of a much wider problem on American college campuses, one that was created during the Obama administration and could – and should – be ended by President Trump.
Title IX is an amendment to an education bill passed in 1972, banning discrimination on the basis of sex in education. It has since vastly expanded in scope, giving college administrators the power to investigate and punish alleged instances of sexual abuse and harassment.
In recent years, these investigations have become kangaroo courts, where students – mostly white and male – are denied due process. Unlike courts, where charges of rape and sexual abuse are contested by lawyers and subject to the strict test of “innocent until proven guilty,” students facing sexual abuse allegations on a college campus are frequently found guilty and expelled based on scant evidence, by “tribunals” made up of legally untrained college administrators and faculty members.
Title IX overreach did not begin under President Obama — but it was kicked into overdrive. In 2011, the Office of Civil Rights sent a “dear colleague” letter to colleges warning them that failure to tackle the problem of sexual assault on campus would henceforward be considered a Title IX violation, opening colleges up to penalties if they failed to address the issue.
The letter emerged in an atmosphere of panic over sexual assault on campus, whipped up by left-wing feminists who vastly overestimated its frequency. The OCR’s letter claimed that 1 in 5 women are victims of sexual assault in campus, a huge overestimation which has since been debunked.
Faced with the threat of the federal government, colleges leaped to take action. Kangaroo courts were the disastrous result. In some cases, colleges displayed a transparent hunger to punish students, perhaps to prove to the government that they are tackling the problem. In one notorious case, a student at Colorado State University was expelled for raping his girlfriend even though his girlfriend never accused him of such a crime, and even told the college “I’m fine and wasn’t raped.”
The rapid growth of kangaroo courts on American colleges has led to a constant stream of stories describing miscarriages of justice on campus. Falsely accused students have started winning lawsuits against their colleges, with multiple judges condemning the lack of due process at universities.
As long as the OCR’s 2011 letter stands, the travesties of justice are likely to continue. But why should it? It would be very easy for the Trump administration to send a message to colleges that it will no longer tolerate wrongful punishments for the most heinous of crimes based on threadbare evidence.
The Office of Civil Rights is controlled by the Department of Education, which is of course controlled by Betsy DeVos, an appointee who was vigorously protested by the left. Congressional Democrats, still committed to the Obama administration’s disastrous crusade against sexual assault on campus, grilled DeVos on the question of Title IX enforcement during her confirmation hearing.
DeVos, a donor to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a group that campaigns against Title IX overreach, is certainly aware of the problem. When asked whether she would uphold the Obama administration’s 2011 guidance during her confirmation hearings, DeVos did not indicate that she would, instead saying:
Senator, I know that there’s a lot of conflicting ideas and opinions around that guidance, and if confirmed I would look forward to working with you and your colleagues and understand the range of opinions and understand the issues from the higher ed institutions that are charged with resolving these and addressing them. And I would look forward to working together to find some resolutions.
DeVos did not clearly come out against the 2011 guidance, perhaps to avoid putting her already-fraught confirmation hearing in jeopardy. She was probably right – the left is bizarrely committed to the failed policy, and DeVos’ refusal to endorse it was enough to spark panicked articles from left-wing publications. Even her donation to FIRE caused alarm from feminists.
While DeVos’ hesitation to condemn the 2011 letter outright was understandable during her confirmation hearings, the tragedy at UTA shows that the time for hesitation is over. Title IX overreach is one of the greatest travesties of justice in modern American history, and has now led to the suicide of a male student.
At the very least, UTA’s shocking failure must be roundly condemned by the administration. But at the same time, the administration should go further, and seek to reverse the disastrous guidelines created in 2011.
Fully resolving the problem will likely take more than that, of course: college campuses have become mini-swamps, filled with biased, politically-motivated administrators. Much of the Title IX injustices are driven by ideological feminists on campus. That will take more time to solve, and more effort at the local level.
Nonetheless, reversing the 2011 guidance would be a huge step in the right direction. Crucially, Trump does not need congressional approval to do so. The guidelines were created by a letter from the Obama administration, and can be reversed by a letter from the Trump administration. With the gridlock in congress, it would be a significant achievement in Trump’s first 100 days.
100-days achievements aside, the administration must take action soon, before another tragedy like the case of Thomas Klocke. The travesty of justice on American campuses cannot be allowed to continue.
Disclosure: I am closely acquainted with the author of the original Watchdog report on this story.