Posted on | June 19, 2014 | 60 Comments
“The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules or took a few liberties with our female party guests — we did.”
– Eric “Otter” Stratton, Animal House
“Colleges and universities are being educated by Washington and are finding the experience excruciating. They are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (‘micro-aggressions,’ often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.”
– George Will, June 6
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which was once an important and reputable newspaper, has announced it is dropping George Will’s column because of his comments about the alleged “epidemic” of rape on college campuses. Provocative language in opinion columns is apparently something that newspapers can do without in the 21st century. Losing readers and losing money, now they have decided to lose truth, too.
George Will’s provocation — his assertion that colleges have made “victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges” — may have been unnecessarily offensive to some readers, but the truth is not always pleasant, and the question remains to be answered: Is this true? Have the attitudes prevalent within academia incentivized false accusations of rape? Perhaps more importantly, we must ask, have college administrators deprived the accused of their due process rights? This was what George Will suggested in his letter to four senators who objected to his June 6 column when he said “sexual assault is a felony that should be dealt with by the criminal justice system, and not be adjudicated by improvised campus processes.” Hear! Hear!
This problem of sexual assault accusations being treated as school disciplinary matters, rather than being investigated as criminal charges, is central to the discussion of the alleged “rape epidemic” on college campuses. And it is also central to a pending lawsuit in California:
Los Angeles County Superior Court judge refused to seal portions of a lawsuit against Occidental College on Wednesday, denying such a request from attorneys for the liberal arts school.
Lawyers for Occidental had asked Judge Luis A. Lavin to make confidential an investigative report included in a case filed by a former student who was expelled after an internal school panel found that he had sexually assaulted a classmate while both were drunk.
Attorneys for the Eagle Rock college argued that documents contained “sensitive, confidential and personal information.”
(In other words, “information” that makes Occidental College look bad.)
Attorneys for The Times and the man opposed Occidental’s request, saying that the lawsuit had been filed earlier this year and that the college had made no previous effort to seal any documents.
The judge agreed, saying: “I don’t understand why [it] is so pressing in June when it wasn’t so pressing in February.”
The Times published a story earlier this month based partially on allegations contained in the documents.
(What a novel idea: Publishing the facts!)
The nearly 180-page investigative report, conducted by an outside firm, contained interviews about the incident with witnesses and the victim. In it, the students said: Both had been drinking, she went to his room, took off her shirt while dancing, kissed him and returned to his room later for sex, asking in a text message if he had a condom. When friends stopped by the room to ask if she was OK, she told them yes.
The crux of the case was whether she was too drunk to understand what she was doing — and whether he knew or should have known of her impaired condition.
(Friends don’t let friends get that drunk.)
The suit alleges that Occidental failed to provide the male student with a fair hearing, that it didn’t follow its own sexual misconduct policy and that it did not provide sufficient evidence for the finding. The [accused] student, who was a freshman, was expelled last year after the panel found that the woman, who was also a freshman, was too incapacitated to provide consent.
So, two freshmen — both of them teenagers, too young to legally buy alcohol — get drunk. According to witnesses, whose testimony is corroborated by evidence (e.g., the girl’s text message about a condom), the girl manifested enthusiastic consent to sex with the boy. Subsequently, however, the girl claimed that the boy had taken advantage of her “incapacitated” condition and, rather than treating this as a criminal accusation, Occidental College instituted a disciplinary “sexual misconduct” proceeding against the boy, violated its own stated policy in the process, and unfairly expelled him.
Of such flimsy stuff is the campus “rape” epidemic built.
Perhaps this controversy — not just the situation at Occidental College, but also the situation with feminists shrieking at George Will’s alleged insensitivity to rape victims — could be mitigated by pointing to the “is”/”ought” distinction involved.
If we look at the “ought” side of the campus sex scene, if we ask what ideally should be happening, certainly conservatives do not advocate that students should get drunk and have sex.
In terms of moral ideals, conservatives favor sobriety and chastity. However, when we consider the “is” side of the equation — the reality of student life — conservatives must acknowledge as a matter of fact that college kids do get drunk and do have sex. As an ex-Democrat, I speak with the authority of experience on this subject, and this is what I wrote in an American Spectator column last year:
The rhetoric of SlutWalk activists — “No means no!” — is obviously not directed at the lurking sociopath, the knife-wielding career criminal who pounces from ambush in darkened alleys. Rather, feminist harangues about the meaning and importance of consent are directed at otherwise law-abiding men who don’t cope appropriately with sexual rejection.
Nowhere is this problem more widely decried than at America’s colleges and universities. Date rape is an apparently common campus crime that usually involves two drunk young people, one of whom has an erect penis, and the other of whom is unable to avert what the erect penis typically does.
This is simply the fact of the matter and, however unfortunate the facts may be, if we are going to yell “rape” every time two college kids get drunk and have sex, we’re going to be yelling constantly. But the feminist Thought Police are deliberately confusing the issue, claiming that opinion columnists who use provocative language to discuss this phony “epidemic” are complicit in rape.
Absurd accusations of word-rape (“Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But George Will’s Column Raped Me”) are not going to subtract even a single rape victim from the tragic total. But the important question is this: Are we doing a disservice to rape victims when we describe as a “victim” the college freshman who gets drunk and has sex that she regrets after she sobers up the next day?
What about guys and their own regrets of drunken sex? Can’t we discuss the fact that teenage boys do things when they’re drunk that they probably wouldn’t do if they were sober? Isn’t this why we have laws against selling alcohol to teenagers? Couldn’t college administrators do a lot to reduce the frequency of these incidents by getting serious about punishing underage drinking on campus?
Where is Dean Vernon Wormer now that we really need him?
It’s a sad thing when we become nostalgic for the Bad Old Days.