Tag Archives: Brown

More on the Rape Accusation at Brown

Marcella (Beth) Dresdale was the former Brown student who accused a classmate of sexual harassment and then (a week later) changed the accusation to one of rape. The classmate, William McCormick, quickly left Brown, but eventually sued both Dresdale and her father, Richard Dresdale, a wealthy Brown donor. Before the Dresdales agreed to an out-of-court settlement (reportedly after McCormick had been offered $1.05 million), the lawsuit brought to light Richard Dresdale’s aggressive involvement in the Brown procedure that minimally investigated his daughter’s claims.

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Star Chamber Hearings at Brown, Yale, and Cornell

brown students.jpgThe ugly episode at Brown–a botched hearing of an alleged rape case– is part of a disturbing pattern of how sexual assault procedures are handled at Ivy League schools. Typically, the schools impose a gross form of injustice, permanently damaging the reputation of the accused male, then congratulate themselves for acting so fairly and appropriately.

According to the definitive 3,279-word account published by the Brown Spectator, Richard Dresdale, a wealthy donor to Brown and father of the accusing student, Marcella Dresdale, secretly met with a key witness in the case, and agreed to help promote that witness’s career. Then the witness, student counselor Shane Reil, made a damning statement against the accused student, William McCormick. In a criminal case, this would obviously be witness tampering, and it looks like that here as well, but a Brown administrator said there was no violation of university procedures in the secret meeting and what appeared to be a bribe to a witness.

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Student Editor Details the Corruption at Brown

As university after university follows the OCR’s mandate to lower the threshold for evaluating campus sexual assault claims–and thereby to increase the likelihood of convictions from false accusations–it’s worth keeping in mind cases in which even the pre-“Dear Colleague” procedure broke down. Caleb Warner’s is one such case; William McCormick’s is another.

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A Black Eye for Brown In a Controversial Rape Case

I’ve written before of the peculiar case of Brown and
Marcella Dresdale
. In 2006, Dresdale accused another Brown freshman, William
McCormick, of sexual assault. But she didn’t go the local police, and she never
filed charges. Instead, she went to the Brown administration–over which, it
turned out, her father Richard, a major Brown donor, exercised considerable
influence. After a prosecution-friendly process in which McCormick’s only
advocate was an assistant wrestling coach, McCormick accepted what amounted to
a plea bargain, and agreed to leave Brown. The university never formally
investigated Dresdale’s charges.

There matters might have ended, but McCormick and his family
decided to file a federal suit against both Dresdales and Brown. Their basic
claim: that Brown had railroaded McCormick to accommodate the demands not of
justice but of a major donor.

The case meandered its way through various courts and judges
until this summer, but recently a district court had upheld McCormick’s
discovery demands–related to what sort of communication between the Dresdales
and Brown administrators about the case. It seems that the Dresdales really
didn’t want McCormick and his attorneys to get access to this material. On Wednesday,
the Dresdales and the McCormicks announced that they had reached an
out-of-court settlement.

As is customary in such matters, terms weren’t released,
though the fact that the development came so close on the heels of the
discovery order gives a good sense of which side prevailed. The settlement
also, ironically, proved the McCormicks’ claims that Brown effectively acted
not as an institution of higher learning but as an agent of the Dresdales. The
settlement’s terms preclude the McCormicks not only from suing the Dresdales
but also from suing Brown–even though Brown wasn’t officially a party to the
settlement negotiations. It appears that Richard Dresdale was willing to offer
more money to shield the school from the sunlight of discovery. Brown’s spokesperson,
however, issued an Orwellian statement about how, regardless of the apparent
cover-up and Brown’s fierce attempts to prevent the McCormicks from getting
access to data about the school’s decisionmaking process, “the university stood ready at all times during this
litigation to prove in court that it had acted appropriately and in accordance
with applicable laws, policies and procedures.”

A final point, on coverage of the case. Kudos to Bloomberg
News
, whose article on the settlement references the Dresdales by name.
Contrast that approach with the Laura Crimaldi of the Associated Press, whose
article never uses the Dresdales’ name
and instead explains that a settlement
was reached between McCormick, his family, and “his
accuser and her father
.” (This shielding policy even prevents the AP
from referencing the name of the case, McCormick
v. Dresdale.
) Again: Marcella Dresdale never filed charges. She appears
never to have gone to a hospital for a rape examination. Her father paid out an
undisclosed sum of money to prevent documents regarding Brown’s handling of the
case from coming to light. And yet the AP believes that she’s still entitled to
the cloak of anonymity?

Brown Shows How to Skew a Case and Skewer the Accused

Tuesday’s Brown Daily Herald brings an interesting column on one of Brown University’s best known–and most questionable–disciplinary proceedings: the expulsion of a student, William McCormick, after an allegation of rape by the daughter of a major donor.

I’ve written about McCormick’s case before–in what resembled a coerced plea bargain, he was dismissed from Brown after another Brown student, Marcella Dresdale, accused him of sexually assaulting her. (Dresdale never filed a report with police; McCormick always maintained his innocence and is suing the university.) The affair at the very least has raised the appearance that McCormick left Brown not because he had done anything wrong but because the university bowed to the demands of Dresdale’s father, who has funded both the Dresdale Family Medical Scholarship and a medical conference room.

Continue reading Brown Shows How to Skew a Case and Skewer the Accused

Brown Wrestles with the English Language and Loses

Suppose you are the president of Brown University or a member of the Brown corporation and, for some reason that eludes most sentient adults, you want to maintain your ban on ROTC on campus. You are in a tough spot, since all the other Ivy League schools, President Obama, the national political establishment, and the general public have called for the Vietnam-era ban to be dropped.

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Brown Speaks with Forked Tongue on ROTC

We all know the story of Lucy and Charlie Brown–just as Charlie Brown is lining up to kick the football, Lucy pulls it away, and Charlie Brown tumbles down. And then Charlie Brown, ever gullible, falls for the same trick over and over again.

Reading Brown president Ruth Simmons’ recommendation that the university not permit ROTC to return to campus reminded me a bit of Lucy and the football. Brown, as her communiqué noted, phased out ROTC in 1969, and the program was gone from campus by 1972. Like other comparable anti-ROTC institutions (Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Stanford), Brown has allowed students to enroll in ROTC at a local campus (in Brown’s case, Providence College), but the campus newspaper reported in 2010 that “in recent years, only a handful have done so.”

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A Brown Cover-Up

Duke—which is defending a civil suit filed by most of the unindicted lacrosse players and their families—isn’t the only university being sued, in part, for bowing to politically correct winds on campus. Brown, a prominent donor, and the donor’s daughter are facing a civil suit, for allegedly conspiring to drive out of school a former Brown student after the donor’s daughter accused him of sexual assault.
The basic facts of the case: In 2006, William McCormick was a Brown freshman and member of the university’s wrestling team. Very early in the academic year, he seemingly had a series of unpleasant encounters with another first-year student, Marcela Dresdale, who lived in his dorm. Dresdale complained to her dorm RA about McCormick’s untoward advances, and the RA reached out to the Brown administration. Then, six days later, Dresdale for the first time asserted that a week before, and after several discussions with the RA in which she had made no such claim, McCormick had raped her.
Sexual assault policies of most universities are wildly tilted in favor the accuser. But Marcela Dresdale had another advantage—her father, Richard Dresdale, is a Brown alumnus of some influence, as well as a major Democratic donor. (Full disclosure: I have donated to two candidates on Dresdale’s list—Obama and Tom Allen, a 2008 Senate nominee in my home state of Maine—though my donations didn’t quite reach Dresdale’s six-figure level.) Internal Brown documents obtained by the AP indicated that Richard Dresdale was in contact with Brown administrators, and McCormick was immediately suspended and sent back to his home in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, the person who served as McCormick’s de facto advocate, an assistant wrestling coach, wasn’t allowed to see any evidence of the alleged crime. The three sides eventually worked out an agreement: McCormick would withdraw from Brown and not return to Providence until the accuser graduated; Dresdale wouldn’t file criminal charges; and Brown would terminate its investigation—an inquiry in which McCormick’s advocate wasn’t allowed to see what evidence, if any, Brown actually possessed.

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Ethnic Studies: ”White Studies” in Black and Brown?

Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education on July 4 (“Who Gets to Define Ethnic Studies?”), Kenneth P. Monteiro, dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State, criticizes what he calls “a piece of legislative hubris from Arizona that purports to ban ethnic studies in public schools.”
Monteiro was referring to Arizona House Bill 2281, passed in May, a month after Arizona’s controversial immigration legislation. It prohibits school districts or charter schools in the state from offering any classes that

1. Promote the overthrow of the united states government.
2. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

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A Rape Accusation At Brown

Brown University is being sued by a former student, William McCormick III, over its handling of a charge of rape on campus. Because of McCormick’s allegations, the case is bound to attract major publicity. In court papers, he argues that the female student was reluctant to name him, and that Brown officials yelled at her, pressing her to escalate her initial complaint (that he was following her) into a rape complaint, written by her with the help of her resident coordinator. The court papers also argue that the father of the alleged victim, a Brown alumnus and donor, made phone calls to top university officials, which led to a private settlement: if he withdrew from Brown, she would not file criminal charges.

Neither the accuser nor the university reported the alleged crime to Providence police or campus police. McCormick, who later rejected the deal with the university, says Brown failed to follow its own disciplinary policies. The lawsuit claims that Brown interfered with his access to potential witnesses and refused to provide documents that might exonerate him.

Colleges are often reluctant to hold due-process hearings on sexual complaints, partly because vigorous cross examination opens them to charges of abusing the victim.

Feminist theory holds that there is no need to hear from the accused, because rape victims do not lie and because confrontation with the accused or his lawyer or even any close analysis of what happened can amount to a “second rape.” As a result, on some campuses, the “he-said she-said” in cases of alleged rape tends to be reduced to a simple “she said.”

The Columbia University sexual misconduct policy does not allow the accused to confront his accuser, have a lawyer present, or even to sit silently at the hearing, unless the accuser agrees. Nor can the accused line up witnesses or investigate the charges himself. Nat Hentoff called it the most repressive sexual misconduct policy he had ever seen.

Duke University recently introduced a bizarre misconduct policy. Under it, a great many males who could have sworn they were having consensual sex were actually committing rape in the eyes of their university. The policy contains a broad definition of coercion, and warns that “real or perceived power differentials…may create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion.” So a sexually active varsity athlete at Duke might be accused of rape because his status as a campus star is inherently coercive to women he dates.

Columnist Cathy Young, writing about the new Duke policy, recalled an example of a counselor advising a student to consider an apparently harmless act of intercourse as rape:

“About 15 years ago, as an undergraduate, a friend of mine was talked into a one-night stand in a situation some would call coercive: the man was a graduate student, and she felt somewhat intimidated by his intellectual brilliance. She went to a campus counselor hoping for advice on developing her assertiveness skills—only to be told that she had been assaulted and should not blame herself. My friend was frustrated and angry: in her view, the counselor was not only being unhelpful but telling her how to interpret her own experience. Imagine how much more betrayed she would have felt if the counselor had been compelled to initiate proceedings on her behalf.”

Out Of Her Depth?

Ruth Simmons, president of Brown University, quit the board of directors of Goldman Sachs, citing the “increasing time requirements associated with her position as President.” What she didn’t cite were the two or three weeks of steady criticism from financial analysts and students and the student newspaper in response to belated awareness of her lucrative remuneration from Goldman Sachs and her comments on her role on the board.

Simmons, who juggles membership on several boards, received $323,000 a year as a Goldman director and she leaves the board, which she joined a decade ago, with $4.2 million in Goldman stock, plus 10,000 options that could raise her take to $5.7 million.

In an interview with the Brown Daily Herald, Simmons, the only African-American on the Goldman board and one of only two women, stressed that as a director on several boards, her goal was “to make certain fields more accessible to women and minorities,” and implied that that she served on boards to learn something about economics.

The interview, which preceded the Simmons resignation, immediately drew strong criticism from Felix Salmon, a blogger at Thomson Reuters Corp. who called for a change in the composition of Goldman Sachs’s board because he said some of Simmons’s comments indicate that she lacks the business sophistication to challenge management.

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Columbus Stays At Brown

Yes, there are cases of student councils refusing to translate progressive imperatives into University policy (less so, it seems than administrations) even, as we see today, at Brown. The Brown Undergraduate Council of Students voted against a resolution expressing support for the abrogation of Columbus Day as a University holiday by a a 21-15 margin. The Brown Daily Herald notes:

The students were not sufficiently swayed by a presentation earlier this month by Reiko Koyama ’11, who told the council that by keeping Columbus Day on the academic calendar and giving students the day off, the University was condoning Columbus’ role in the deaths of millions.

Considering that Constitution Day events on campuses appear to consist largely of hearings on the Patriot Act (not inappropriately) couldn’t Brown, and other universities simply provide contextual (oppositional, indigenous-American-balanced, whichever you’d like to call it) programming on the occasion?

VERITAS in the Brown Daily Herald

The Political Theory Project at Brown, as well as several other Veritas Fund efforts are profiled in yesterday’s Brown Daily Herald. The piece provides a strong account of Mark Bauerlein’s efforts at Emory:

At Emory University, Mark Bauerlein directs the Program in American Citizenship, which is funded by Veritas.
“In terms of content, we support any course that immerses students in a significant cultural or civic tradition in American history,” Bauerlein said.
“The courses we’ve supported are pretty broad on the ideological spectrum,” he said. “For example, we supported a course on the history of conservatism in the United States. We also supported a course on the literature of progressivism.”
Bauerlein said that the program ran 17 courses last year and enrolled 270 students. “Right off the bat we can say we have a lot of students reading the Federalist Papers, reading the Bill of Rights, reading Friedrich Hayek, so if we have more freshman students reading serious work, then right there we’re happy.”
The program, Bauerlein said, is not a means of advancing a conservative agenda.
“Our enemy is not any political position,” he said. “Our enemy is forgetfulness, the obliviousness to the past.”

Read the whole thing.

Fixing the Anything-Goes Philosophy at Brown

Brown University is famous for having the loosest graduation requirements in the Ivy League. In fact, there are almost no graduation requirements at all, for although Brown undergrads do have to major in something in order to qualify for a degree, they are free to design their own majors. As for anything else in the way of mandatory courses, forget it. Don’t like math and science? You’ll never be asked to take a single class in either at Brown. Find learning a foreign language too difficult? No worry—you’ll never have to utter a single word en francais or en espanol during your four years on the university’s historic campus in Providence, R.I.. You can even bid au revoir and hasta la vista to freshman English while you’re there, although you do have to demonstrate some level of competence in writing in order to don your cap and gown at the end of it all Grades? You can elect to take all of your courses pass/fail if you like. And if you do choose to have your professor give you a letter grade, the range consists of A, B, and C; F is not an option. Thus, there’s almost no such thing as an introductory survey course designed for non-majors at Brown, whether in biology or history or anthropology or economics. Why should there be? Students at Brown don’t have study anything outside their chosen (and often self-designed) fields.
Even given today’s rampant grade inflation, especially at the Ivies and other elite schools, and today’s lax definition of distribution requirements that allow students to select courses from a smorgasbord of offerings (a little Chinese history here, a little Caribbean poetry there) that usually ensures that they never learn the basics of any academic field outside their major, Brown’s requirement-free curriculum is a standout. If it sounds like something left over from the 1960s, well, it is. In 1969 Brown’s administrators jettisoned the university’s traditional core curriculum, including distribution requirements, survey courses and required sequences that obliged students to learn the basics of an academic field before going on to advanced-level work, in order to focus on an free-form educational philosophy whose goals were variously described as to “put students at the center of their education” and to “teach students how to think rather than just teaching facts.” One of the architects of Brown’s “New Curriculum,” as it is still known almost 40 years later, had been Ira Magaziner, now best remembered as the designer of President Bill Clinton’s failed national health plan but then a student activist and antiwar protest leader at Brown. And so, to this day, while Brown says it encourages its undergraduates to “experience scientific inquiry,” for example, there is no mandate that they actually do so.

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More Non-Conformity Blather At Brown? Maybe A Little Better.

The keynote speaker at Brown’s opening convocation this year urged that students, according to the Brown Daily Herald, “should not limit definitions of themselves to those imposed by society” that they “should they should use their time at Brown to forge their own values and determine their own priorities” and “the importance of independent thinking and the danger of trying to ‘pass’ for a certain identity to gain the validation of others.”
Sound like exactly what you’d hear at a Brown convocation, as students head off to define their own grade-less majors and resist the pressures of society by immediately adopting whichever political opinions prevail in their dorms? Well, yes, but the speaker was Glen Loury, who, while generally left-minded, is considerably more independent-minded than any of his professorial peers. The same platitudes? Yes. An advocacy of independent thinking from someone who occasionally engages in it? That’s something new.

Educating for Citizenship at Brown University: An Essay In Honor Of Allan Bloom

Brown University has been described as providing “the worst education in America.” Brown’s New Curriculum, far from requiring that students read a list of Great Books, has no core of any kind. Brown students are free to “shop” their courses and take only the ones they like. Brown’s libertarian attitude toward curricular structure no doubt influences the sort of courses that wind up being taught at the place.

Consider the goings-on in a course that has become popular at Brown in recent years. On the first day of this course, the instructor informs the delighted students that it is fine with him if they never attend another lecture during the semester. He admits that he would like them to attend their weekly discussion sections, but he assures them that they need not worry about being lectured at there: the sections in this course are conducted as student-led seminars, with the graduate teaching assistants instructed to refrain from interrupting the student’s musings in any way. There are weekly writing assignments in the course, but students are always free to write about topics that happen to interest them rather than the topic that was assigned. The syllabus indicates that the course includes a midterm, but the professor hastens to set them at ease about that. To the sound of cheers, he tells them that they may adjust the details of the questions so as to better display their own strengths and interests. He promises them in any case that their exams never will be evaluated in terms of how well the essays they write happen to fit with the questions that he (the professor) asks on the exam. Instead, each exam essay is to be evaluated simply “on its own terms.” This course concludes with a final exam sternly stipulating that students compose an essay in response to one of three questions. But the last question turns out to be: “3. Write a question about any author you have read, argument you have heard, or any idea that has occurred to you during this course. Now, answer it.”

I first read Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind twelve years ago, the year I began teaching at Brown. By the time I reached page 63 and read the sentence beginning “Education for our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion…”, I was enchanted. Bloom’s claim that there was a great wound lying unattended to at the soul of the university, a wound of emptiness endured without understanding by recent generations of students, resonated profoundly with my own earlier experiences as a professor at a number of what Bloom calls “the 20 or 30 best universities”. Perhaps because I had studied classics as an undergraduate at St. John’s College, Bloom’s prescription by book’s end – a return to “the good old Great Books approach” (334) – completed the spell. At last, someone had brilliantly grasped and confidently expressed worries that many of us had long but dimly harbored about the enterprise of education in America. Here was a champion worth backing.

Continue reading Educating for Citizenship at Brown University: An Essay In Honor Of Allan Bloom