More than a few people online were taken aback when they saw the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) response to Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos‘ proposed Title IX guidelines on how to handle allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment on college campuses.
“We advocate for fair school disciplinary processes that uphold the rights of both parties in campus sexual assault and harassment cases. Today Secretary DeVos proposed a rule that would tip the scales against those who raise their voices. We strongly oppose it,” the ACLU said. “The proposed rule would make schools less safe for survivors of sexual assault and harassment, when there is already alarmingly high rates of campus sexual assaults and harassment that go unreported.”
Then came the third and fourth tweets:
We will continue to support survivors.
— ACLU (@ACLU) November 16, 2018
“It promotes an unfair process, inappropriately favoring the accused and letting schools ignore their responsibility under Title IX to respond promptly and fairly to complaints of sexual violence,” the ACLU continued. “We will continue to support survivors.”
There already has been plenty of backlash at various publications in response to the DeVos proposal. At HuffPost: “Betsy DeVos’ New Title IX Guidelines Prioritize Schools Over Sexual Assault Survivors.” At Salon: “Betsy DeVos Moves to Demolish Title IX, Silence Sexual Abuse Victims.” At The Cut: “The Most Terrifying Parts of Betsy DeVos’s New Sexual-Assault Policy.” Here at Law&Crime, columnist Elura Nanos reacted this way: “Top Five Reasons to Loathe Betsy DeVos Today.”
National Review chimed in to say, on the other hand, “DeVos Strikes a Blow for the Constitution.”
In that article, senior writer David French went after the ACLU for silencing “generations of ACLU civil libertarians” with this embrace of “wokeness.”
“When I read those tweets, there was a disturbance in the legal Force, as if the voices of generations of ACLU civil libertarians cried out in anguish and were suddenly silenced by wokeness,” he wrote. “The old-school ACLU knew there was no contradiction between defending due process and ‘supporting survivors.’ Indeed, it was through healthy processes that we not only determined whether a person had been victimized, but also prevented the accused from becoming a ‘survivor’ of a profound injustice.”
Many others have concluded that the ACLU as they knew it is no more.
This is reprehensible. The accused deserve due process. Period.
Shame on you ACLU. The kangaroo courts that take place on campus are the very definition of violation of civil liberties.
— Collin Slattery (@CJSlattery) November 16, 2018
I never thought I'd see the ACLU say "unfairly favors the accused"
— Nikki Polansky (@nikkifaceful) November 16, 2018
— WhatCouldGoWrongHat (@Popehat) November 16, 2018
A mindboggling statement on proposed TIX regs from @aclu. Cross-examination by a lawyer is "inappropriately favoring the accused"? Ensuring both parties have access to training materials and evidence?
Does the ACLU now adopt those positions more broadly?https://t.co/HCeQbt5HBf
— KC Johnson (@kcjohnson9) November 16, 2018
"Inappropriately favoring the accused" — The ACLU. https://t.co/0E9YUqwCv3
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) November 16, 2018
The ACLU still does some great work. But damn is it ever disappointing to see this organization, with all its history, use the phrase “inappropriately favoring the accused.” https://t.co/kDwLJN884Y
— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) November 16, 2018
Others in the media, like Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept, believe the ACLU is a casualty of the Donald Trump era and that people ought to support “an actual civil liberties group.”
What has happened to ACLU is one of the saddest developments of the Trump era. But there are already groups – such as @TheFIREorg – emerging to replace it as an actual civil liberties group which defends rights regardless of partisan outcomes. Also still great ACLU lawyers remain https://t.co/GVbAWxZxXb
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 17, 2018
Complaining about excessive protections for people accused of crimes is an odd position for the ACLU to take, but then again it’s been slowly transforming into a general liberal advocacy organization rather than a civil liberties organization https://t.co/5NbfOuTXQ4
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) November 17, 2018
[Image via Chris Kleponis-Pool and Getty Images]