Opinion: Protect Due Process for Students at Our Private, Religious Colleges and Universities

   

The purpose of government is to protect individual liberty, and when liberty is trampled, it’s government’s role to protect liberty and stand up for the Constitution. That responsibility includes the Constitutional rights of college students on Missouri’s private religious campuses, and that’s why I support the campus due process protection bills currently under consideration in the Legislature.

On campuses across the state, at our public and private universities, due process rights are being curtailed and students accused of misconduct are having their rights ignored. In contravention to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, our Missouri college students currently have no right to: counsel; to view the evidence proffered against them; no right to cross-examine plaintiffs; nor access to an impartial appeal process. The Title IX campus misconduct system is, frankly, broken.

Missouri’s colleges, both public and private, receive millions of taxpayer dollars each year and yet they’re not living up to their responsibility to protect the rights of students. Nationally, there are hundreds of lawsuits against colleges and universities for ignoring the constitutional due process rights of students. If we fail to fix this broken system now, we risk costing Missouri taxpayers millions of dollars in legal costs and lawsuit settlements.

Some lobby on behalf of my friends at Missouri’s religious colleges and universities that protecting due process rights at private colleges amounts to government impinging religious freedom. A few thoughts on that.

First: that’s exactly what’s already happening now. Our private colleges are acting under duress from “guidance” issued by the Obama Administration. This “guidance” doesn’t come with the force of law, since it was never legislated, but it does come with the implicit threat of a revocation of federal funding should our colleges not toe the line.

There exist myriad ways in which government makes clear to our colleges and universities that they can’t violate Americans’ constitutional rights. Colleges can’t, for instance, refuse to hire an employee simply because that qualified applicant happens to be African American. Similarly, university hospitals are required by the government to maintain certain standards of care for patients at their hospitals.

I disagree with bill opponents who argue standing up for students’ constitutional rights on our taxpayer-funded campuses runs contrary to religious liberty. To my mind, that’s government fulfilling it’s primary role: protecting the rights given us by God and guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. My brothers and sisters at our Christian colleges and universities should be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Title IX due process reform, not fighting it.

As a Christian, I’m proud to support the due process rights of students on every campus in our state. I’m hopeful this is the year the Missouri legislature will pass these protections for students and fix the broken Title IX system.