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September 17, 2015

THAT’S OKAY, SO LONG AS HE’S CAREFUL NOT TO DO IT AGAIN: Rep. Jared Polis did not misspeak, he just doesn’t like the backlash.

Colorado Congressman Jared Polis claimed in his local newspaper that he “misspoke” when he called for innocent college students to be expelled simply for being accused of sexual assault.

He can claim whatever he wants, but his actions last week tell a far different story than that of someone who merely didn’t choose his words carefully.

First, we have to go back to his original statement, made during a House hearing on campus sexual assault. During a back-and-forth with a panelist advocating for due process rights for students accused of sexual assault, Polis said it’s better to throw out accused students even if they’re likely innocent, just in case.

“I mean, if there’s 10 people that have been accused and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, seems better to get rid of all 10 people,” Polis said. “We’re not talking about depriving them of life or liberty, we’re talking about their transfer to another university.”

And if Polis says he erred in making this statement, then the audience must have erred in applauding it, because that’s what they did.

But this was Polis’ second controversial comment at the hearing about lowering standards for expulsion. Shortly before he made the above comment that sparked the backlash, he argued that schools should be able to use a lower standard of evidence than the preponderance of evidence standard currently required.

“I mean, if I was running [a private institution] I might say ‘well, you know, even if there’s a 20 or 30 percent chance that it happened I wouldn’t want … I would want to remove this individual,'” Polis said. “Why shouldn’t a private institution, in the interest of promoting a safe environment, use an even lower standard than a preponderance of evidence, like even a reasonable likeliness standard?”

The preponderance standard requires college administrators — under pressure from the federal government to prove they are acting tough on campus sexual assault — to be just 50.01 percent sure a student committed the assault. A lower standard would mean expelling students when schools are more than 50 percent sure the student didn’t commit the assault.

Polis is a putz. Now he’s a chastened putz. That’s modest progress.