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Lawmakers blast university's treatment of accused students

Georgia lawmakers are calling for changes to make sure that college students are receiving due process. The move comes following allegations of sexual assault and racism at Georgia Tech.

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-District 36) led a packed-house meeting that examined several high-profile cases. Legislators heard from Georgia Tech’s president and those representing the students accused in those cases.

Ehrhart warned universities that they need to change their ways or risk losing state funds.

“We’re not going to appropriate funds if those individual institutions are risking those funds through lack of due process,” said Ehrhart.

The first speaker was the mother of a student found responsible for sexual misconduct. She criticized what she called a subjective process that didn’t go anywhere near deep enough.

“You would think, with such dire consequences, that Georgia Tech would try hard to have a fair, objective process that seeks truth and justice,” she said.

An attorney for Phi Delta Theta, currently sanctioned for claims that its membersshouted racial slurs at a black student walking by the house, blasted the process even further. Many current members of the fraternity attended the hearing.

“We’ve just been unfairly labeled racist, and that’s unacceptable,” said Phi Delta Theta President Michael Sterling.

In that case, Georgia Tech officials admitted being unable to find the individuals responsible.

“If we can’t find an actual perpetrator, we’ll just punish anyone everybody get our hands on -- whether they’re guilty or not -- where in this country do we do that,” said Ehrhart.

The two hours brought more than a dozen specific issues with Tech’s current system of justice. By its end, Ehrhart told the several university presidents in attendance, “If you can’t provide the students of this state due process, don’t come looking for money.”

“I can choose to find them irresponsible with respect to how they spend the money they have, so I can choose to find a place where there is a safe environment for kids on campus,” Ehrhart said.

The system doesn’t just exist at Georgia Tech; it’s at colleges statewide. The state can do more than withhold funds against these schools. It can make laws.

Laws exist in several states that require accused students to have an attorney that can participate in the proceedings.

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