The Independents

Why Are English Professors Adjudicating Sexual Assault Cases?



Last week on The Independents, Reason contributor Thaddeus Russell—who teaches at Occidental College, ground zero for campus rape politics—joined panelist Remi Spencer (a defense attorney and former prosecutor) to discuss a proposal by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) to have the federal government spend an additional $100 million-plus to combat sexual assault on campus.

This is the kind of subject tailor-made for simplistic, finger-wagging politics—what kind of moral monster wouldn't want to reduce campus rape?—but at The Independents, as at Reason, we are always interested in unintended consequences and individual rights, and do not take at face value the moral superiority of those who would spend our money and enable prosecutors (including de facto prosecutors with zero track record of criminal investigation). Take a look:

The classic treatment of this topic is Cathy Young's January cover story, "Guilty Until Proven Innocent: How the government encourages kangaroo courts for sex crimes on campus." One of many reasons you should subscribe to Reason today!

NEXT: Matt Welch on Progressive Puritans

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  1. Adjudicating

    They have Joe Sarno there? I thought he took the money and his grandson and went to live the quiet life?

  2. what kind of moral monster wouldn’t want to reduce campus rape?

    STEVE SMITH, for one

  3. One supposes this leads to more administrative staff for universities, and with that even higher tuition costs. And of course no change in campus assaults but guaranteed railroading of students, because as Welch asks, what learned college official would let a rapist free to prowl the quad?

    1. if by ‘rapist free to prowl’ you mean drunken frat boy who winds up in bed with drunken sorority chick, then this system generates its own demand for more admins. And higher tuition.

      1. And if they run out of drunken frat boys to railroad, they can always redefine rape down even further until eventually all male-female sexual encounters are defined as rape. Because PATRIARCHY.

      2. Pretty much exactly what I mean.

  4. Given that all men are rapists, why waste money on investigators or trials? Better to spend the tax money building more “re-education” camps.

  5. The bigger question I always ask is

    If you were sexually assaulted why are you dealing with the university and not the actual for real police?

    There are only 3 reasons

    1) the police are corrupt and don’t want to bother investigating a difficult to prove crime
    2) You know that there is no actual evidence you were assaulted/raped because the case is no so clear cut (factually, legally, or both) as your feelings about it and you want a special backdoor to retribution
    3) You are too stupid to know that you should be talking to the police and not your student advisor.

    #1 is a serious problem that is no doubt true in a lot of cases and needs to be fixed, but you are not going to fix it by spending money on trying to end campus rape, you need to start charging police with malfeasance when they fail to do their jobs.

    #2 I’m sorry but even if you were legitimately raped you are not a special snowflake who gets a special alternate legal system with special rules written in your favor because in the overwhelming majority of these cases there ISN’T enough evidence to convict beyond a reasonable doubt and in a lot of the cases no crime was ever committed to begin with. Innocent until proven guilty is a very important concept and we can’t be jettisoning it just because you feel violated

    #3, If you are too stupid to go to the cops then you don’t deserve justice

    1. Unless you were raped by a cop or someone related to a cop, I find it hard to believe number 1 is much of an issue. Even if it is, it is not specific to universities. In the day and age of rape counselors and such, number three is just unthinkable.

      That leaves number 2, which of course what this is all about. This is about punishing men at the whim of women. They would throw men in jail if they could. Since the Constitution makes that hard, they are trying to throw them out of college.

      If you are a man and attend college, you go there at the good will of your female classmates. The moment any one of them decides you shouldn’t be there, she is free to accuse you of rape or harassment and you will be expelled on her word alone.

      1. #1 is especially an issue when the police involved are the university police and answer to the school administrators. Schools should not have police powers. Let those be handled by the local city/county/state jurisdiction. Schools can have security guards.

        1. You are correct. Universities should never have police powers. I hadn’t thought of that situation. That is a fair point. The University Police have every reason to ignore a rape allegation since a rape happening on campus will embarrass their employers.

          1. I’ve been at two universities, and have found that their police are a lot better than the local ‘real’ cops. And here at my University the campus police have jurisdiction over a couple of square miles of actual Detroit (by agreement with the city). And let me tell you, it’s a whole hell of a lot safer in those four square miles than it is outside of them (and no, that doesn’t just include the fancy area around the U, it includes some extremely sketchy, burnt-out areas).
            Not that this reduces the point, which is reduced levels of evidence and inappropriate proceedings. I’ll certainly buy that.

      2. I don’t know, #1 is nowhere near the problem it used to be but cops are lazy and don’t want to spend their time investigating a difficult case like a campus rape where there is unlikely to be much if any evidence beyond he said she said and lets face it, a plurality of cops are actually the animalistic rapist type that feminists claim most men are and so it is not hard to believe that when a woman goes to the cops and reports a rape, especially if it is a big city force that she’ll get a cop who blames the whole thing on her and might just rape her a second time for wasting his time.

        I’d say that while society in general is mostly past the blame the victim stage cops tend to be far less “evolved” and so #1 is still a problem in some places.

        1. CDR lytton made a good point above about campus cops having a reason to cover up rapes because they embarrass universities.

          1. Not just rapes but any crimes. Drinking underage footballers get escorted home while the dorm party gets shut down and citations made. Embezzlement in the business office handled quietly without going to a formal trial. Sexual assault by an assistant coach gets swept under the shower mat. Etc.

            Or university administrators having the ability to threaten the use of police in their petty academic bullshit disputes.

      3. Well, #2 could be resolved by mandating that any rape accusation be immediately reported to the police.

    2. “the police are corrupt and don’t want to bother investigating a difficult to prove crime”

      With rape, we have plenty of examples of police corruption running the other way – bringing dogs of cases to court rather than take the public-relations hit of acknowledging that there just isn’t the evidence to convict beyond a reasonable doubt.

      1. That is the prosecutors. If it gets to a prosecutor I agree they are more likely to assume the guy is guilty and prosecute away. The difficulty is getting past the cops in the first case.

        1. You may be right about this.

    3. I’m sorry but even if you were legitimately raped you are not a special snowflake who gets a special alternate legal system with special rules written in your favor

      CHECK UR PRIVELEDGE, PATRIACHY BOY!!!1!!11!!!! /sarc

  6. Why are universities dealing with crime in the first place? Do they have campus tribunals on murder?

    Last I looked rape was, next to murder, the most serious felony one could face. If rapes are happening on campus and the perpetrators are not going to jail, I don’t see how the solution is to empower more campus tribunals. If someone is guilty of rape, I don’t want them kicked out of school. I want them to go to prison. I would love to ask one of these assholes “why do you think rapists shouldn’t be sent to prison but instead just kicked out of school?”

    Of course really what is going on here is that there is not a “campus rape problem”. There is a “the Constitutional rights afforded criminal defendants is keeping us from throwing men in jail” problem. They can’t change the Constitution but they at least think they can get men kicked out of school whenever a woman feels the need to do so.

    The entire idea that a serious felony should be adjudicated by a campus tribunal is insane.

    1. Yes, limit the campus tribunals to academic dishonesty and the sort of petty undergraduate criminality the real-world police don’t want to be bothered with.

      For felonies, turn to the real-world judicial system – it’s highly imperfect, but at least some of these dogs of cases will get laughed out of court – especially now that Nifong got disbarred for acting like a campus prosecutor rather than a real one.

      1. What is to deter the campus Nifongs?

      2. Now, it would be fine for a university to have rules restricting sexual behavior beyond what the criminal law requires. After all, there used to be rules against being in a residence of the opposite sex after hours, etc. I see no reason to hold students to a higher standard than “don’t commit crimes.”

        Of course, if you’re taking courses online and not blowing a wad of money on living in some dorm, then many of these issues will do away, leaving only online harassment to deal with.

        1. I see no reason *not* to hold students to a higher etc.

        2. BYU will expel you for having premarital sex. They are a private university. So of course that is fine. If BYU wants to have tribunals to determine if their students were doing the nasty out of wedlock and thus violated the agreed to rules of attending school there, more power to them. That however is not a crime just a student breaching the agreement they signed.

    2. It is, however, a great demonstration of what the justice system would look like if progs got to re-write the rules, and it needs to be exposed before that happens.

    3. I think you hit the nail on the head. This isn’t about prosecuting criminal behavior. It is about satisfying a politically influential element (feminists) within the academic community.

  7. Sometimes man you jsut have to rol lwith the punches.

  8. This was in the back of last week’s Business Week…..-with-rape

    Berkeley student gets raped in a room with 10 others sleeping on an overnight poly sci club outing. Doesn’t say anything. Lets another girl take her place in that room the next night. Talks to other girls later who tell her the same thing happens. Two months later, reports the incident to Berkeley’s student conduct office. Poly sci club president “had been meeting with administrators to get him kicked out” of the poly sci club. Gets response from conduct office eight months later that it’s been handled and is not happy.

    Best part of the article:

    So in April 2011 the [Dept of Education] civil rights office sent letters to colleges outlining a proper response. Schools had to investigate all allegations thoroughly, allow both sides to present evidence, accommodate students’ requests to change classes or dorms, and conclude everything in 60 days.

    But when you make complaints to Education

    The Department of Education can take years to complete an investigation

    1. WTF? Why were the police not called? And what the hell is going on with the Poly Sci club of all things?

      1. Knowing absolutely nothing other than the article, I’d say it was a case of regret after the fact.

        Who the fuck gets woken up by a guy trying to rape you and rather than yell or god forbid struggle, knowing there are 10 others in the room, lies back and thinks of mother England quietly. Or if this was so common, why it wasn’t scuttlebutt in the poly sci club. No one gossips or chats with anyone else there?

      2. Yeah, what the fuck? If as presented, the dude needs to be a jail for a long time, where he can found his own poli sci club.

        1. “More like pounded in the ass club”

  9. go ahead professor. you don’t have sovereign immunity, but you and your employer do have deep pockets.

  10. Kirsten Gillibrand?

    Oh, you mean Senator Sorority Girl.

  11. they can always redefine rape down even further until eventually all male-female sexual encounters are defined as rape. Because PATRIARCHY.

    “Well, I was in the library studying, and I, like, had a whole table to myself, and I was really, like, getting all kinds of work done, and I was, like, totally in my comfort zone, you know? And then HE came and just sat right down, and started reading, and he didn’t say anything, or ask, or anything. It was creepy and weird. Well, it totally out me off, and my concentration was like totally shattered and he just sat there reading, you know? So I had to leave, and I felt, like, just totally violated.”

    *breaks down sobbing*

    1. In actuality, college administrators have about as much jurisdiction as they have qualification to perform prosecution of sexual assault. It is the police’s work and the prosecuting attorney’s jurisdiction, not the job of folks who can’t even get the First Amendment right, much less the Fourth Amendment.

  12. I’ve been at two universities, and have found that their police are a lot better than the local ‘real’ cops.

    I suspect this is true because of the (more) explicit “service provider” / “customer” relationship.

  13. $100 million dollars? To do what, have the Sect. of Education and/or
    Attorney Gen. send a two page memo to 50 state AGs asking them to contact all colleges in their states and get real about prosecuting rape in a manner that doesn’t violate the rights of the alleged perp or alleged victim?
    I suspect what this is really about is Team Blue knowing Team Red will refuse to let this pass the House and thus add more fuel to the “GOP War on Women” bonfire.

    1. ^^ This X1000

      “I suspect what this is really about is Team Blue knowing Team Red will refuse to let this pass the House and thus add more fuel to the “GOP War on Women” bonfire.”

  14. Last time this subject came up I went looking for data on sexual assaults on campus, and came up with a whole lot of bupkis (mostly data from studies done ranging from 10-20 years ago, and with those mostly showing very dubious ‘trends’ or any incidence-levels inconsistent with broader environmental comparisons)


    I find the above odd, considering there are apparently some data sources that are more robust, eg.

    but then you try and find out what said data *means* and you will get lost in a morass of self-reporting and qualifiers suggesting that the #s are so much contrived bullshit.

    Noting that Forcible Sexual Assaults apparently increased at a rate of ~15-20% annually the last 3 years…

    1. This is (somewhat) helpful

      The ‘data’ the government collects through this ‘cleary act’ thing is all “self-reported” based on ‘reports about reports’ but no actual validation, charges, or determination of actual facts.….._p_02.html

      Reported crimes

      Disclose statistics for alleged criminal incidents.

      ?Crime reports don’t have to be investigated first.
      ?No one has to be found guilty or responsible

      But it comes with a government mandated Powerpoint slidepack, which is like, demonstrating Tax-Dollars Used Well, and stuff.

  15. This obsession of the DoE and DoJ with “on campus” sexual assault has always puzzled me. Is there a reason to remove jurisdiction from the local police? Is that reason constitutional?

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