Campus Free Speech

UMW President Says Feminist Group's Title IX Complaint Is Reckless, Misinformed

And he's right.

|

UMW
Eduardo Montes-Bradley

University of Mary Washington president Richard Hurley had harsh words for the national feminist legal organization sponsoring a Title IX complaint against the university. The complaint is based on "unsubstantiated claims and misinformation," wrote Hurley in a blunt and harshly condemning open letter.

A small UMW campus organization, Feminists United on Campus, filed the complaint with the help of the Feminist Majority Foundation, a national advocacy group. They allege that the university failed to protect members of FUC from harassment and cyberbullying—particularly anonymous threats made using the social media app, Yik Yak. One of the members of the group, Grace Mann, was tragically murdered in her off-campus home a few weeks ago. Her apparent killer, roommate Steven Vander Briel, was apprehended immediately.

The complaint implicitly draws a connection between FUC's anti-sexism activism—which targeted the rugby team because a few members engaged in nonspecifically offensive chanting at a party—the threats made against the group, and Mann's eventual death. (Vander Briel, an on-again, off-again student who had recently re-enrolled, was a former member of the rugby team, though there is no record of him having played a game for nearly the last decade, and the current members of the team didn't know him.)

I previously wrote that the complaint was baseless; there's no evidence that the rugby team, or the Yik Yak comments (which are constitutionally-protected speech), had anything to do with Mann's death. Furthermore, the university did everything it could for FUC. Administrators, including Hurley himself, met with FUC constantly to assuage its concerns.

Given all that, Hurley's criticism of FUC and FMF is well-deserved:

I write to respond to the allegations raised in the Title IX complaint filed against the University of Mary Washington, which we understand the Feminist Majority Foundation funded and recklessly publicized. As an initial matter, we were surprised to learn that you scheduled a press conference on May 7 to publicize the allegations in the complaint, particularly because we had already scheduled to meet with you on June 3 to discuss concerns raised by student members of Feminists United on Campus ("FUC"). You did not inform us of your intent to hold such a press conference. Instead, you sought media attention to publicize the fact of the filing of – and the irresponsible allegations in – the complaint.  It is regrettable that you chose to preempt the opportunity to meet with me to gather information to assess the concerns being raised by a handful of UMW students.

The primary premise of the complaint is that UMW "ignored" students' concerns regarding comments made on the social media app Yik Yak.  That allegation is demonstrably false. …

UMW is committed to fostering a supportive, safe and positive environment for all of our students – men and women alike.  The reprehensible and offensive comments posted on Yik Yak are inconsistent with UMW's values.  Nevertheless, as we have seen recently with other institutions, the publication of unsubstantiated allegations and false narratives hurts not only the reputation of the affected institutions but also the reputation of the proponents who fail to investigate before taking their concerns public.  And in this case, the speculative connection FUC and the Feminist Majority Foundation claim exists between Grace Mann's death and Yik Yak commenters spreads misinformation, and worse yet, it adds undue pain for the grieving Mann family.

In the future, I encourage you to explore fully the allegations you hear from students before you initiate a highly-publicized media campaign with unsubstantiated claims and misinformation.

Read the rest of the letter here.

For more on the Title IX Terror, read my recent column.

NEXT: Ira Stoll on How Ted Cruz Is Channeling John F. Kennedy

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Demonstrably false.” Why not just say it plainly? “It’s an out and out lie, and you’re clearly just attention-whores.”

    1. Legalese CYA. The school’s general counsel probably didn’t want the president saying ANYTHING at all — the best defense is the one that sneaks up on you in the blandness of a courtroom — but probably forced some language changes in the release.

      There is a much smaller risk of a defamation claim claiming “demonstrably false” no matter what happens rather than claiming somebody is a liar.

      1. I bet there will be a lot of legalese CYA going ’round in the near future.

  2. FUC? Really? Pathetic.

    1. FUC UMW?

  3. Just like if you create positions of power–especially disproportionate or inordinate power–you get the worst possible people gravitating to them, if you create tools like Title IX than can give a disproportionate or inordinate amount of power to people who decide to abuse it…the worst possible people are going to use it for the worst possible reasons.

    Scumbags are absolutely inexorably drawn to disproportionate or inordinate power. It’s like they’re sharks smelling blood in the water from miles away. This kind of shit will happen every single time you create idiocy like Title IX.

    1. Let’s get it over with and enact Title FUC.

  4. Took me a while to figure out what the United Mine Workers had to do with anything feminist.

  5. anonymous threats made using the social media app, Yik Yak.

    It never occurs to these helpless candy-ass mouth-breathers to simply stop reading stuff they don’t like. Or get off the app. Or uninstall it if it doesn’t allow them to block people they don’t want to hear from. “Oh noez people are bullying me on social media…help me HELP ME I can’t stop reading and engaging with their posts!”

    1. I think they’re claiming the anonymous Yik Yak comments fed the atmosphere or something… so it doesn’t matter that the “victims” didn’t read it as long as the aggressors were, uh, aggressivized.

      Regardless, it’s 1st Amendment protected speech; there’s little UMW — a public university — can do about it unless it becomes actually threatening.

  6. Not to speak ill of the dead, but, if Grace Mann was a member of FUC, does that mean she was a FUC-buddy?

    1. You’re going to hell.

      /yes.

      1. Fuck you, now I’m also going to hell.

  7. There’s another item:

    Hurley is not the only campus member who has voiced concerns about the effort to link Mann’s death and the Title IX case.

    Student Cynthia Alam said she thinks coverage of the complaint unfairly portrays the student body. She said she disagrees with the complaint.

    “We are not all in an uproar, and we do not all support FUC,” she said. “As an Asian woman of Bangladeshi descent who is also Muslim, I have encountered situations in the past of racial, religious, and sexist tensions, and even hatred. However, never at Mary Washington.”

    She said negative posts on Yik Yak that she has seen have been reported quickly for voted down by users. Alam also believes a ban on Yik Yak would violate the right to free speech.

    “Grace Mann’s death was senseless and tragic, and we as a campus mourn that,” she said. “But a sense of frustration on the campus stems from FUC claiming to represent all of us, as well as their sensationalism of a human’s death for an agenda … . What is most disturbing is that it seems almost as if FUC is blaming a social media site for her death and covering up the killer’s name.”

    1. Another student, sophomore Emily Berriz, said “whether or not they claim that Grace’s death is related to these apparent Yik Yak threats, the lawyers and members of the FUC are using her murder as a driving force to gain media attention for their lawsuit, whether they realize it or not. I find that so disrespectful.”

      She said she and her female friend on campus do not feel unsafe, and that they appreciate the actions of the school in disbanding the rugby team earlier this year.

      “The only effect I’ve seen FUC have thus far at University of Mary Washington is create controversies, arguments, and division among the student body,” she said. “I am definitely an advocate for [equality] between men and women, but I am not an advocate for the FUC’s actions.”

      1. and we do not all support FUC

        So, flaccid, then?

        Actually, it does my heart good to see push-back on this.

  8. Repeal Title IX.

    If the law has any saving graces, I’d like to see it mentioned in any of the articles regularly noting its awful effects.

    It seems as though even suggesting the repeal of Title IX is somehow ‘unthinkable’…

    …yet somehow Reason has the guts to call for scrapping the Patriot Act, ending the drug war, getting rid of the ATF, ending NSA surveillance, and opposes the very existence of a vast array of other overblown, intrusive federal laws…

    …but Title IX…. nope. we just whine about its ‘secondary effects’.

    1. It was useful back in the day, maybe. But with women strongly represented in college these days, it’s probably not needed anymore.

      1. But, see? This is just proof that the law works, and, therefore, not having the law will cause a reversion to the “Good Ol’ Boy” system.

        If it ain’t broke, why do you want to fix it, bassjoe?

        /FUC heads

        1. Entitlement IX is just another example of Government creating constituencies

          in the end, when you strip away all the bullshit “Equality” rhetoric which presumes that there is “injustice” unless we have 50/50 representation in every dimension of existence*…

          (*and not just ‘representation’ – soon it expands to ‘access’, performance results, TV coverage, or other measures of difference – never mind that differences of results are not de facto evidence of “discrimination”)

          ….its not even about that = its about money and power. Federal laws make universities into extensions of their own bureaucracies, they create thousands of jobs for “Compliance” and keep lawyers fat and happy. And they become a tool to silence and destroy anyone who criticizes the Right People. As Richard Epstein put it = “”anti-discrimination laws do not stop discrimination. They allow the government to perpetuate the worst forms of discrimination by the use of public force””

          It is a sign of how bad things have gotten that a magazine thinks its less “politically dangerous” to criticize the Drug War than it is to suggest that maybe Women’s Liberation doesn’t need this bullshit law anymore.

  9. “Vander Briel…was a former member of the rugby team”

    He IS a former member, Robbie. Or he WAS a member.

    You know, between this and your misuse of ‘begs the question’ I think reason really needs to evaluate their hiring of millenials. Maybe they can do a survey about millennial grammar.

    1. How about surveying the commentariat to see who gives a flying FUC?

  10. “The complaint is based on “unsubstantiated claims and misinformation,” wrote Hurley”

    It’s cute that he thinks that matters.

  11. “FUC’s anti-sexism activism”

    Anti sexism activism? Accepting the premises of the Progressive Theocracy, are we?

    I bet that any objective evaluation of FUC’s activism would find that it is massively sexist against men.

  12. Finally! A college administrator with balls.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.