Male Student Allegedly Banned from Campus Because His Resemblance to a Rapist Was Triggering?

Colleges are increasingly inclined to prevent all conceivable harm, not settle matters fairly.


It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

A male student at an unnamed college in Oregon was investigated for sexual assault. But even after he had cleared his name, he was still prohibited from having contact with a female student—denying him access to his classes, residence, and job—because he merely resembled the man who had committed rape.

That's according to an anecdote in a commentary piece for the Harvard Law Review written by Janet Halley, a professor of law at Harvard University. The piece provides an in-depth look at the trouble with campus sexual assault adjudication efforts, hitting on many subjects I've covered previously. It's an expert treatment of the subject, and is well-worth a read.

But the most interesting facet is the story Halley tells at the very end of her piece, which concerns a completely innocent student whose entire college life was interrupted by a rape investigation. After he was found innocent of any wrongdoing, a no-contact order against him remained in place—evidently because his presence would have triggered the other student's rape memories. Halley writes:

I recently assisted a young man who was subjected by administrators at his small liberal arts university in Oregon to a month-long investigation into all his campus relationships, seeking information about his possible sexual misconduct in them (an immense invasion of his and his friends' privacy), and who was ordered to stay away from a fellow student (cutting him off from his housing, his campus job, and educational opportunity) — all because he reminded her of the man who had raped her months before and thousands of miles away. He was found to be completely innocent of any sexual misconduct and was informed of the basis of the complaint against him only by accident and off-hand. But the stay-away order remained in place, and was so broadly drawn up that he was at constant risk of violating it and coming under discipline for that.

When the duty to prevent a "sexually hostile environment" is interpreted this expansively, it is affirmatively indifferent to the restrained person's complete and total innocence of any misconduct whatsoever.

National Review's Kat Timpf points out the obvious problem with such a policy:

It's devastating to think of a student being unable to walk around campus without having to risk being traumatized by reminders of her rape. But restricting a totally innocent student from walking around campus because he looks like the person who raped her is obviously unacceptable.

Thanks to the intervention of the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, colleges are increasingly inclined to take steps to prevent all conceivable harm (emphasis on conceivable), not settle matters fairly.

I reached out to Halley to see what else she could tell me about the incident—she did not provide any identifying details, so the only proof of this having happened is her account—but have not yet heard back. I'll provide an update if I learn more.