[guest post by JVW]
Because I no longer regularly read their newspaper, it escaped my notice that the Los Angeles Times editorial board had one of their rare moments of elightenment this past Friday when they judged the Trump Administration’s recent updates to Title IX policy to be, well, quite sensible:
When Education Secretary Betsy DeVos decided to revisit the rules governing sexual assault accusations at colleges, some victims’ advocates feared she would make it too difficult to hold assailants responsible. But the rules released this week make reasonable changes for the most part, curbing some of the excesses of the previous system.
The editorial board does criticize the new Trump Administration guidelines for allowing institutions to determine whether to continue with the Obama-era preponderance-of-evidence standard (i.e., a student is at least 51% likely to be guilty instead of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt) or to adopt a more stringent standard of proof. They would prefer that the looser standard continue to be mandated across all educational institutes, public or private. Two years ago that same editorial page used their support of the 51% likelihood of guilt standard as a lynchpin to argue against any sort of modifications to the Obama rules, as noted by the title of their earlier editorial, “Hey, Betsy DeVos, keep your hands off campus sexual assault standards.”
You don’t suppose that the whole mess that Joe Biden finds himself in has sort of focused the editorial board’s mind on this particular problem, do you? Back in August of 2017 they assured us that “[t]he aim [of a campus inquiry] isn’t to enforce the law; it’s to enforce the rules the campus sets for behavior by its students, staff and faculty,” and they waived off any suggestion that the Obama guidelines had empowered schools to tip the scales against the accused, ensuring us that basic protections for due process were “all part of the written guidance that the Office of Civil Rights has published.” Now they acknowledge that under the Obama regulations “there were ways in which its rules swung too far in the other direction, violating accepted norms of due process and basic fairness.” Naturally, no mention is made of their fondness for these rules in toto just twenty-one months ago.
It ought to be noted that in August 2017, sexual assault still served as a convenient cudgel that Democrats and their feminist allies were happily wielding against the Trump Administration and other troglodyte Republicans. Perhaps you remember the proliferation of whimsical hand-knitted headwear. But just three months later Leeann Tweeden would go public with her accusations against Senator Al Franken; in that some month would come reports that Congressional warhorse and Civil Rights crusader John Conyers had settled several sexual harassment lawsuits with women under his employ; and the following spring would bring word that crusading hero Eric Schneiderman, Attorney General of New York, had an ugly habit of physically abusing women. Once it became clear that these sort of allegations tripped up progressive men as often as (if not more often than) they took down conservative men, the Democrat establishment noticeably started to cool on the whole #MeToo thing, even though the activists continued to lead the charge. Now that they are close to nominating a man whose behavior with women would likely put him on the precipice of getting kicked out of the University of Delaware — not to mention Oberlin or Reed — suddenly Democrats’ ardor for believing all women has waned, and their media brigades are sounding the retreat.
To its credit, the Los Angeles Times editors were never as gung-ho about this issue as their colleagues at the New York Times editorial page or the Huffington Post or Salon. Over the past few years their opinion page has published several pieces by authors critical of the kangaroo courts and the lowered bar for finding the accused guilty. It would have been nice if they would have acknowledged — rather than minimized — the problems that the Obama Administration’s notorious “Dear Colleague” letter wrought over the past decade, but where the LAT editorial board is concerned, a better-late-than-never criterion will have to suffice.