Georgia lawmaker gets attention for involvement in campus sexual misconduct investigations

9:41 a.m. Friday, Dec. 22, 2017 Education
Bob Andres/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Mar. 28, 2017 - Atlanta - Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R - Powder Springs, presents SB 71. He managed to get his campus rape bill inserted into the bill, which passed the House. Today’s legislation included a measure to allow guns onto any campus in Georgia’s public college and university system, which passed the Georgia Senate, and the Houlse overwhelmingly approved a compromise that would expand the list of disorders eligible for treatment under the state’s nascent medical marijuana program. The 39th legislative day of the 2017 General Assembly. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

A state lawmaker from Cobb County, drawing attention this fall for pushing to stop a student protest at Kennesaw State University, has also drawn the notice of two national news organizations in recent weeks for his aggressive role in reshaping the discussion about sex assaults on campus.

Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, is criticized by some in articles in The New York Times Magazine and in a lengthy article this week in the online publication Buzzfeed, who say he’s pressuring Georgia’s largest college campuses to change rulings in some sexual misconduct investigations.

Ehrhart sent emails to officials at the University of Georgia, Kennesaw State University and Georgia State University concerning various investigations, according to a report published Thursday by Buzzfeed. Ehrhart’s emails blast campus decisions on some cases. In one instance, Kennesaw State University reversed a decision against a male student accused of sexually assaulting a female student, The Times reported. Both articles involved months of reporting.

"Georgia has become the proverbial embodiment of what can go wrong when people abuse power to erode (federal discrimination) protections," Lisa Anderson, executive director of Atlanta Women for Equality, who represented the female KSU student, told The Times.

Ehrhart defended his actions, asserting his longstanding belief that colleges are mistreating many students accused of misconduct by not giving them fair hearings.

He introduced legislation earlier this year that did not pass that would prevent schools from investigating campus sex abuse claims unless police were also involved. 

"I am doing my job for the taxpayers of Georgia by pointing out abuses," Ehrhart said in part of his statement to Buzzfeed.

The AJC reported earlier this year on Ehrhart’s involvement in campus issues, using state funding as a bargaining chip. He chairs the committee that helps decide how much is budgeted for higher education in Georgia.

In other news:

President Sam Olens resigned from office earlier this month.