The "Weinstein effect" doesn’t trump the Constitution

Earlier this week, the New York Times published a piece arguing that the so-called “Weinstein effect” should impact the debate over sexual assault and due process on campus. How? In part by stopping efforts to bolster legal protections for accused students.

“About six years ago, colleges began offering better support and justice for victims, pushed in part by a grass-roots movement among students themselves. But in September, pundits across the political spectrum approved when the Education Department rolled back some Obama-era rules that had broadened protections for college sexual assault victims, ostensibly because they robbed accused students of their right to due process in campus courts. Obama’s rules were already pro forma at some colleges before his 2011 federal guidance, so I believe the backlash isn’t truly about government policy, but discomfort about the change in how students approach the problem of sexual assault today.”

This is very, very wrong. The “backlash” is triggered in large part because court after court (including judges across the ideological spectrum) has concluded that government tribunals (and at private colleges, government-mandated tribunals) have violated the fundamental due process and other legal rights of accused students. No amount of political awareness trumps the Constitution, and due process still applies to state efforts to deprive any person of “life, liberty, or property.”