Is lawmaker off base in calling for Georgia Tech president to go over campus sexual misconduct policies?

Update Wednesday:  Rep. Earl Ehrhart and Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson have mended fences, according to today’s MyAJC.com

AJC higher ed reporter Janel Davis reports: 

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart said he and Tech president Bud Peterson had a very “cordial and productive” conversation this week about Ehrhart’s criticisms of the institution and new due-process policies being implemented for all schools in the state’s University System, including Georgia Tech.

Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, had criticized Tech for its policies, which he claimed did not provide students accused of wrongdoing with fair treatment in investigating, hearing and appealing their cases.

Last week, the Marietta Daily Journal reported that Ehrhart, who chairs the state House committee responsible for allocating funds to the state’s colleges and universities, said Peterson should resign over the unfair practices. (Ehrhart denied he asked for Peterson’s ouster, instead saying “if things didn’t change” the school would need someone like Purdue University president Mitch Daniels to replace him.)

But two recent actions by Peterson “demonstrated that he is the man I knew he was,” Ehrhart said. According to the state lawmaker, Peterson reached out to the mother of a 19-year-old student accused of sexual misconduct who said school officials prevented her from being in the room with her son during a hearing. Peterson also wrote a letter to the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, Ehrhart said, apologizing for unfairly punishing the students.

Here is the original blog: 

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, is calling for the ouster of Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson over how the campus responds to sexual misconduct allegations.

gatechEhrhart sought to use his position as chair of the legislative committee that allocates college funding to punish Tech.

As Ehrhart told the AJC, “I cannot in good conscience continue to fund Georgia Tech at the level that it requests without some assurance to parents that there will be due process for their children.”

Is this any way to run Georgia’s higher education system? While protecting a few Tech students he believes were denied due process, is Ehrhart short-changing the education of thousands of others?

First some history via AJC stories:

With campus rape grabbing national headlines, Tech has expelled or suspended nearly every student it has investigated for sexual misconduct in the past five years, records show. And at Tech, officials finding a student responsible for non-consensual sexual intercourse must either expel the student or explain why they did not.

The school has also cracked down on fraternities, handing out a stiff sentence for a house where members were accused of hurling racial slurs at a black female student. But in its zeal to punish wrongdoers, there are signs Tech has pushed too far.

This month, the school was ordered to reinstate a male student it expelled last year after finding him responsible for non-consensual sexual intercourse, commonly known as rape. It’s the only time in the past five years the state Board of Regents has overturned any public college on a sexual assault case, records reviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show. The case is one of two lawsuits pending against Tech President Bud Peterson, other school administrators and the regents by students arguing they were forced out of Tech unfairly after being accused of sexual assault.

Now Ehrhart is targeting the Tech president. He wants Bud Peterson out, telling the Marietta Daily Journal:

He’s up for his contract renewal come April. The Regents, I think they’re frustrated with him. The alumni, I think they’re massively frustrated with him. He’s costing them (the school’s reputation), he’s costing their sons and daughters a safe environment on that campus, and they’re fed up with it, I think. We need somebody like a Mitch Daniels at Purdue to come in and have the guts to stand up to these activists in their cabinets, sweep them out of there and do the right thing, and they just won’t do that at Tech.

A few weeks ago, a former state Supreme Court judge reviewed  a high profile case involving a fraternity at Georgia Tech’s request. An African-American woman had filed a complaint against Phi Delta Theta, contending members of the fraternity shouted racial slurs at her from the windows of their campus house last year.

The fraternity denied the allegation, but Tech disciplined the frat, letting it remain on campus and recruit but banning it from Greek Week, homecoming and campus social events

According to the AJC:

In a review of the fraternity case process, findings and sanctions, former chief judge of the Georgia Supreme Court Leah Ward Sears found the fraternity’s sanctions were out of line with the university’s policies. Tech had requested Sears’ review.

Georgia Tech‘s policies don’t allow for whole organizations to be punished unless the group’s leaders are found to be complicit in the actions. A student judicial panel did not find Phi Delta’s leaders to be complicit in the August incident.

Although the sanctions were lifted, Sears’ review found that a student judicial panel had enough evidence to find that the racial incident did occur, and that the fraternity received adequate due process in the investigation and appeals process.

“It is important to recognize that race-based discriminatory acts or practices have no place at Georgia Tech where students should be able to learn and engage in activities without the disquietude of prejudice and intolerance, ” Sears said in a letter to Georgia Tech president Bud Peterson. “It is also crucial to call attention to the importance of fraternities policing the behavior of its members.”

One of the debate points in the Legislature has been whether Tech should investigate sexual misconduct cases. The AJC reported:

“Would it not make more sense, in cases of certain behaviors that touch criminal conduct … that the University System not, and purposefully not involve itself in (investigating those cases) and get professional law enforcement to investigate?” asked Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna. “I would think this would be a relief to many administrators.”

Peterson said he did not disagree but said the matter was complex. The university disciplinary process has a lower burden of proof than criminal prosecution requires, which gives the university more leeway to take action.

But there are legal experts who believe in Title IX’s provisions against sexual discrimination and violence and its requirement that universities act on any charges of sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence on campus. In a letter to the AJC, attorney Carol Napier wrote:

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, is concerned about “due process” for students accused of sexual assault. As a lawyer, I am pretty certain Georgia Tech gives students all the process the Constitution requires. Ehrhart’s solution to his imagined due process problem: mandate police reporting of all campus sexual assaults, regardless of what the victim wants, and strip universities of authority to regulate the conduct of their students. (Title IX requires universities to investigate all complaints of sexual violence even if police are also investigating.) Ehrhart argues we have mandated reporting for child abuse, and therefore, we should have mandated reporting for campus sexual assault. Ehrhart is saying that women are essentially children and cannot be trusted to decide whether to call the police. Thankfully, Ehrhart will not win his war on university women. Why not? Because Tech women are much stronger and smarter than he, and Title IX has their backs.

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

23 comments
doctor91
doctor91

So Ehrhart kissed and made up?  He should have kept his nose out of it anyway.  He is a former UGA grad who punished Tech by threatening Dr. Peterson and taking away millions for library and other improvements at Tech during this legislative session because of his pro dawg bias.  It likely had very little to do with "fair treatment" .  He doesn't intend to be fair with Tech as long as UGA is around.

Wonder where all Ehrhart's fairness and with holding of funds and threats to UGA presidents  was with  the countless UGA  issues there over the past many years?  Or as we like to say in our house, all the ugag issues.

Keep up the good work, GT and Bud.  We are behind you.  And legislators do have to get re-elected to stay on their thrones.



yellowjacket70
yellowjacket70

The Board of Regents exists to prevent two-bit legislators with some personal vendetta from interfering with the operation of the state's institutions of higher learning. Georgia Tech, which ranks in the top 50 institutions of higher learning in the world, hardly needs input from the gentleman from Powder Springs in how to deal with issues of misconduct among students. After all, the members of the Georgia legislature are not known for their high level of ethics or intellect. It is a gross misuse of his office for Mr. Ehrhart to use it to further his personal vendetta toward President Peterson. It's disappointing that Mr. Ehrhart's colleagues in the legislature participated in his feud with Georgia Tech by allowing denial of funding to stand. But then these are the brain trusts that came up with Campus Carry and RFRA.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

"Is lawmaker off base in calling for Georgia Tech president to go over campus sexual misconduct policies?"


Yes.  It reminds me of some of the shenanigans by the legislature with the BOR and governor years ago.

gtcivil
gtcivil

@iwd re you  saying it is OK to sacrifice a few young men for the greater good of the institution? It is OK to consider these men guilty until they prove their innocence, promptly expel them and ruin their lives so Georgia Tech can keep it's funding and maintain the "perception of a safe place". Really?


Interestingly, the self proclaimed "angry feminists" have similar mantra: it is justified to wrongly accuse and convict few innocent men of sexual assault in order to encourage more victims to come forward. 


That is all great in theory until you or your son is that man. How would YOU like to be convicted based only on an accusation brought forward months, sometimes more than a year after the alleged incident?  How would you like to be denied due process and robbed of your future and your reputation? You wouldn't like it very much, right? But somehow it is OK to do exactly that to somebody else.


Rep. Ehrhart shows great integrity and courage to stand up to injustice.  Georgia Tech is gradually becoming a hostile environment for college men. Rep. Ehrhart is calling for justice, due process and equal treatment for ALL students and is greatly respected for that!

bu22
bu22

@gtcivil @iwd He is standing up for civil rights and against McCarthyism.  Its a shame there are so few true liberals anymore.  Rape needs to be taken more seriously by police departments.  That doesn't mean colleges deprive their students of their rights in order to achieve full political correctness.

Another comment
Another comment

Tech has had a major talent gap for at least 15-20 years ago. They have hired some real swarmy ex DOD folks with mail order PHD's that could not teach a class if their life depended upon in.

I know of one that misrepresented patents obtained while at DOD. Stuck their name on what others did. Then was bounced from department to department at Tech. Kept asking folks from industry to teach their class as a guest lecturer ( wouldn't pay them). After awhile everyone in town declined the guest teaching.

Then this asst Prof would brag that just being a GT prof would allow them to get put on private sector team proposals and haul in another $200k per year. Pretty trash behavior. It also points out why it might be better to explore schools where Professors are counting on the University for their fulltime gig. Not the big city consulting opportunities, and the students and just collateral damage.

Another comment
Another comment

Wasn't it a boy on boy case where the boy had second thoughts about being gay and the boy just got reinstated,

gapeach101
gapeach101

I can tell you when my daughter was at GT, she NEVER walked down fraternity row, day or night.  She didn't feel safe. Any my daughter walks around a lot of places I prefer she didn't. 

bu22
bu22

@gapeach101 And that has nothing to do with due process for those accused.

iwd
iwd

Tech has been able to recruit top academic talent from around the country, competing with the likes of the Universities of Michigan, California and Virginia, the Ivy League, Standford, Carnegie Mellon, etc. Between the campus carry nonsense and this meddling in GT campus affairs and public safety policies, the legislature seems to be trying their hardest to destroy what has been built over decades, including the good work of leaders like President Peterson. 

Tech will not be able to recruit the kind of faculty talent that it has in recent years, or retain the talent it already has, if this nonsense continues. This will lead to it no longer being a premier public university and an engine of economic development in the state. Is this what the Representative from Powder Springs wants? Really? 

It is important that Tech is a safe place for young women and men. And it is important that it be perceived as such.This action is not helping that.

The legislature has the power to destroy a critical state asset. If it keeps going like this, it will likely do just that. Contact this state legislator and tell him to back off.

Mitch_Copeland
Mitch_Copeland

Y'know, some folks would use email, or maybe a phone call. He has to jerk around thousands of people and wreck all sorts of plans to make his point. 


This is a major problem with the legislature and the USG, and has ben a problem with the governor's office as well in the past. The line item meddling with the USG is unconscionable.

redweather
redweather

This is grandstanding, and that's what we often get while the legislature is in session. The fact that Ehrhart uses funding as a cudgel is nothing more than a bully-boy tactic. Legislators do this all the time. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

The Regents determine University policy, not the state legislators. 

redweather
redweather

@OriginalProf But the legislators hold the purse strings, and they never let the BOR forget that.

0.136599727315
0.136599727315

Earl made his point about due process and now he should back off. Georgia Tech doesn't need a state representative from Powder Springs dictating policy. This frat boy from University of Georgia with a BS in political science isn't qualified to hold Bud Peterson's pencil.  

CSpinks
CSpinks

Ehrhart's way off his legislative base.

Pablo1885
Pablo1885

I doubt that Mr. Ehrhart speaks for the Regents in his assessment of Dr. Peterson, but he certainly does not speak for the alumni when he says "I think they are massively frustrated with him." This is political grandstanding at the risk of driving away one of the top presidents in the country.

Niobe
Niobe

It's been over a year since Get Schooled attacked a University of Virginia fraternity over a now thoroughly discredited rape accusation. To promote the myth that female students are "victims" and male students "predators" far more often than is actually the case?

http://tinyurl.com/q58h7pe

Rolling Stone magazine has long since disowned the article of theirs which created the stir. But not Get Schooled. Rep. Ehrhart is right to pursue the broader issue.

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

The problem is less roving rampant boys than alcohol plus boys plus girls plus easy access to private rooms.


If the facilitators of unwelcome sex were ranked by cause, my understanding is that over-indulgence in alcohol is the largest by far.  Most incidents happen when one or both parties are drunk.


How about focusing on preventing drunkenness and maybe eliminating coed dorms and/or reinstituting parietals -- dormitory rules governing visits from members of the opposite sex..


Judging from the cries about rape, there would seem to be too many drunken rabbit warrens available to too many students too much of the time.


More studying anyone?