Tag Archives: Notre Dame

A Judge Catches Notre Dame Acting Badly in a Title IX Case

Notre Dame stands to lose a Title IX case in an unusual flurry of kangaroo court blunders. It “investigated” the case and came away only with the female’s hostile emails, none of her loving ones (knowing that many emails were missing). When the male contemplated suicide, Notre Dame interpreted those thoughts as “dating violence,” and the male was denied a lawyer on grounds that the procedure was “educational” and not “punitive.” The “non-punitive” action cost him a lot of tuition money, banned him from taking two finals and got him expelled.

A narrow judgment in a broad, well-reasoned ruling came from Judge Philip Simon in a due process lawsuit filed by the accused student at Notre Dame. The ruling (which you can read here) was a reminder that in virtually all due process lawsuits, a fair-minded judge can find ample reasons to rule against the university.

A narrow judgment in a broad, well-reasoned ruling came from Judge Philip Simon in a due process lawsuit filed by an accused student at Notre Dame. The ruling (which you can read here) was a reminder that in virtually all due process lawsuits, a fair-minded judge can find ample reasons to rule against the university involved.

The specifics of the case were a little different from most due process cases. The couple had been in an ongoing relationship, for about a year. The male student (who I’ll call JD) suffered from depression in summer 2016, and this past fall, the accusing student (who I’ll call AS) decided to break things off after JD started sending her text talking about how he might commit suicide. She also reported JD to the Notre Dame Title IX office, which concluded that the texts constituted “dating violence,” since they purportedly manipulated AS.

Related: The Title IX Mess—Will It Be Reformed?

The accusing student then indicated a desire not to move forward with any allegations and reconciled with JD, only to change her mind again and reinstitute charges. Notre Dame immediately issued a no-contact order between JD and AS, to which JD responded by deleting AS’s contact information, and all of the duo’s texts, from his phone. AS, on the other hand, retained their full text message history.

Notre Dame conducted an “investigation,” but for all practical purposes, AS was the university’s investigator—she turned over text messages from her cache, but only ones that made JD look bad. As Judge Simon explained, Notre Dame had no idea that—after AS first went to the Title IX office—AS identified as Jane by the judge:

told him to “Come overrrrrr.” [Id.] He proposed that they “take a nap” and she responded that “I‘M SO PUMPED.” [Id. (emphasis in original).] The following week, on November 7th, Jane asked John if he could sleep over. Jane then implored John to “Come to champaign” (sic), which seems to have been a reference to him meeting her in Champaign, Illinois. She also offered to meet him in Chicago. [Id.] Jane then asked John to come over that day because “she was having a really bad week already and I just wanna cuddle.” The following day they planned to get together again. Jane asked John “where you at (sic)” and he responded that he would “be there in 15 minutes.” Jane’s response demonstrated that she was happy to be seeing him. She said “yayyy.” The next day they planned to meet up again at Chipotle around the noon hour. And then later that night they must have planned another get-together because Jane told John that she was coming “to pick him up.” A week later, on November 15, Jane told John to “sleep overrrrrrrrrrr.” She later had a change of mind and canceled because she needed to study and he responded that that was no problem. John told her that he loved her and Jane responded that “I LOVE YOU TOO.” [emphasis in the original.]

Incredibly, Notre Dame never asked AS to turn over all text messages (which only came to light as part of the litigation). According to the complaint, Notre Dame also ignored copious exculpatory information, including a videotape of AS saying, “I want to fuck up his [JD’s] reputation; I want to make sure he never has a girlfriend . . . here or anywhere . . . and I want him never to be able to have a social life.”

Related: Title IX Tramples Free Speech and Fairness, So Now What?

At this stage of the lawsuit, JD asked for very narrow relief—that Notre Dame allows him to take his two remaining final exams, and give him grades for those courses. Simon granted that request. But the judge’s ruling also indicated grave concerns with three aspects of Notre Dame’s investigation, and his wording suggests this lawsuit could be very difficult for the university to win. He focused on three principal issues:

(1) Evidence. “The University’s investigation might have been arbitrary and capricious,” Simon noted, “for failing to obtain and review the entire context of the couple’s texting history.” Indeed, he added, “the text messages that . . . were not available to the Hearing Panel—text messages showing sleepovers, naps together, invitations to go on trips, and lunch dates—strongly suggest that Jane did not feel threatened or intimidated by John.” In some ways, Notre Dame’s conduct was more egregious than that of the foundational text-message case (Amherst), since here, the university knew that a text message history existed, and still didn’t ask for the whole file. AS conceded in a filing to the court. Her attorney, meanwhile, bizarrely claimed that the lawsuit had left her in threat of “physical” harm.

(2) Procedure. Simon criticized multiple aspects of Notre Dame’s procedure. He noted that the university essentially allowed AS to introduce character evidence but denied JD the same right, seemingly lest the accuser be traumatized. He questioned the university’s denial of direct cross-examination; Notre Dame instead used a “stilted method” of requiring JD to submit questions to the panel, which he hoped they would ask, not allowing “for immediate follow-up questions based on a witness’s answers, and stifling [his] presentation of his defense to the allegations.”

(3) Purpose. Judge Simon appeared baffled by the university’s decision (typical in these circumstances) to deny the accused student a lawyer. And he made clear he didn’t like the university’s response. When asked “why an attorney is not allowed to participate in the hearing especially given what is at stake—potential dismissal from school and the forfeiture of large sums of tuition money—Mr. [Ryan] Willerton, the Director of the Office of Community Standards and a member of the Hearing Panel, told me it’s because he views this as an ‘educational’ process for the student, not a punitive one. This testimony is not credible. Being thrown out of school, not being permitted to graduate and forfeiting a semester’s worth of tuition is ‘punishment’ in any reasonable sense of that term.”

This statement was a remarkable denunciation of the kangaroo court structure evident at most universities in sexual assault cases. While Simon termed his comments “conjectural,” it’s hard to see how his mind would be changed on these points, since the facts of Notre Dame’s procedures and text messages already have been established.

Will Notre Dame take from this rhetoric a need to settle? And, more broadly, will other judges learn from this impressively reasoned opinion?

Race Baiting in the Name of Justice

The annual White Privilege Conference, not open to the public, concluded yesterday at an undisclosed site in Philadelphia. Caucasians mustn’t worry though — the sponsors say they aren’t anti-white. It’s just that having white skin is an oppressive virus or disease that must be repented in the name of mutual respect.

The teachers and lecturers at the conference — mostly multicultural consultants who make a living inducing white guilt and shame at predominantly white institutions — think American society is hopelessly stacked against minorities and the only way to fix the system is for white people to acknowledge and shed their immense “privilege.” The event featured “social justice” topics, such as “White Women: Internalized Sexism and White Superiority,” and “White Followership – Centering People of Color and Building Effective White Practices for Racial Justice & Systemic Change.” The conference also branched into new territory with discussions about gay and transgender rights, as well as Islam and Islamophobia.

Related: Notre Dame’s Class on Shaming White People

Sponsors of the conference included a number of mainstream organizations not usually associated with race baiting, including Haverford and Swarthmore colleges, the Sierra Club and the Pennsylvania Council of Churches.

The University of Notre Dame, where I am a student,  has also adopted the “White Privilege” cause, offering a one-credit sociology course, or “White Privilege Seminar” and paying the expenses of students in that course to attend the national conference in Philadelphia.

A controversial appearance of the Black Lives Matter movement’s founders at Notre Dame during a January week honoring Martin Luther King, Jr, increased anxiety over the White Privilege Seminar. Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi spoke during the week, and Cullors, while speaking of Dr. King’s legacy, said, “We don’t need a black Christian cis-normative man to take us to the Promised Land.”

Tometi and Cullors used their event to promote a conversation about gender ideology while also verbally attacking the police. Though they conceded that Dr. King had a great leadership role in the civil rights movement, the women believe that their movement demands other, female leadership.

Stating at the event that, “our principles really uplift black women, cis and trans, to be in this dialogue,” Cullors also noted that “history books, schools, institutions erase us or limit our [black women’s] investment in the work.”

Cullors and Tometi believe that the Black Lives Matter movement is inhibited by the police, whom they view as “a very big enemy.”

Cullors stated, “I do not believe in prisons, in jails, in police, in court systems, as the way to punish our people, as a way for accountability. I’ve seen how it destroys and decimates individuals, families and whole communities.”

‘Christonormativity’

Notre Dame’s Multicultural Students’ Programs and Services, Gender Relations Center, Center for Arts and Culture, Student Government, Department of Africana Studies, and Division of Student Affairs all sponsored the event, which was intended to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during Notre Dame’s “Walk the Walk” week. Designed by University president Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C and the President’s Oversight Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, the week included “a series of university and department-sponsored events, community-building dialogues and opportunities of reflection.”

Notre Dame’s White Privilege seminar employs similar rhetoric, and takes for granted the validity of the causes for which the Black Lives Matter movement is fighting. According to the course description, participants will learn to be “more aware of injustices and better equipped with tools to disrupt personal, institutional, and worldwide systems of oppression.”

Last year’s White Privilege conference, which my Catholic university paid students to attend, taught attendees that Christianity is a system of oppression that must be disrupted, according to its program. Speakers spoke of “Christonormativity,” or a “system of oppression which assumes Christianity as the norm, favors Christians, and denigrates and stigmatizes anyone that is not Christian.”

The 2015 White Privilege Conference also analogized Christians with the 9/11terrorists.

“With increasing frequency, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Christian extremists are terrorizing Americans, most frequently blacks, Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and immigrants…the perpetrators of American hate crimes follow the same irrational and misguided ideologies as the 9/11 terrorists,” reads the program.

“The purpose of this course gives it away,” Bill Dempsey, the Chairman of Notre Dame watchdog group Sycamore Trust, told Minding the Campus. “It is obviously no dispassionate sociology course appropriate for a university. It is designedly a training course for participants in an anti-Christian, anti-capitalist, anti-white movement whose primary weapon is disruption. That Notre Dame would not only solicit trainees but even cover their expenses surpasses understanding.”

Notes:  The army allowed 400 soldiers to take a Privilege course last year at Ft. Gordon in Georgia, according to Judicial Watch.

In presidential politics, Hillary Clinton called on white Americans to recognize white privilege several times this year, once during the January Iowa primary campaign before the black and brown forumin Harlem in February, and once last week at  the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network Convention in Harlem, after the awkward racial joke involving Mayor DeBlasio, and  just before the White Privilege Conference in Philadelphia.        

Who Should Speak At Catholic Colleges?

The overwhelming majority of American catholic colleges won’t be honoring public figures that flout church teaching at this year’s commencement exercises, according to the Cardinal Newman Society, the conservative Catholic watchdog group. Of the hundreds of men and women who will be awarded honorary degrees by the nation’s 225 Catholic universities this month, the Society labels only 6 as dissenters on key moral issues (abortion, as always, seems to be the biggie), down from 24 in 2006 and 13 in 2007, according to the Boston Globe.

As the Globe’s Michael Paulson points out, pro-choice catholic politicians are the most obvious snubs. Rudy Giuliani, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, and Ted Kennedy, all regulars on the commencement speaker circuit, will not be addressing a catholic college’s graduating class this year.

Many catholic schools, particularly the smaller, more conservative institutions, seem to have genuinely taken to heart the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops advice from 2004 that “the Catholic community and the institutions which are a part of our family of faith should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”

For schools like Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Boston College, which have large, politically diverse student bodies and faculties, as well as the prestige to lure big names if they want to, the move away from politicians as speakers may also be borne at least in part from a desire to avoid partisan rancor that detracts from the communal nature of commencement. Boston College, in particular, has drawn ire from all directions over its choice in partisan honorees in the past. Extending invitations to socially liberal honorees like Warren B. Rudman (1992) and Janet Reno (1997) has been panned by more conservative voices within the church, while attempts to honor Bush administration officials like Condoleezza Rice (2006) and Michael Mukasey (Law School, 2008) have angered pacifist Jesuits on campus and the more left-leaning lay faculty. It’s not surprising that this year the school opted for the very non-controversial historian David McCullough.

Continue reading Who Should Speak At Catholic Colleges?

Trying To Answer Paul Berman

On June 4th of this year Paul Berman published an extraordinary 28,000 word New Republic essay on contemporary Islamic philosopher Tariq Ramadan of Oxford University and his liberal apologists, Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash, who write for the New York Review of Books. Berman’s essay was criticized by some for being too long, too meticulous, for being too concerned with ironing out any misunderstanding that might be wrung from his words. But the just published tepid reply by Scottish Malise Ruthven, a Scottish historian of Islam, for August 13th issue of the New York Review of Books suggests that, for now, Berman’s tack has cornered his would be critics.

Ruthven finds the US denial of a visa for Ramadan to teach at Notre Dame in 2004 inexplicable. The only mark against Ramadan, says Ruthven, is that he once donated money to a Palestinian charity later put on a terrorist watch list. This is disingenuous. Here’s Berman on some of Ramadan’s history:

As early as 1993, at the age of thirty-two, he campaigned in Geneva to cancel an impending production of Voltaire’s play Muhammad, or Fanaticism. The production was canceled, and a star was born – though Ramadan has argued that, on the contrary, he had nothing to do with canceling the play, and to say otherwise is a “pure lie.” Not every battle has gone his way. He taught at the college of Saussure, where his colleagues were disturbed by his arguments in favor of Islamic biology over Darwin. This time, too, Ramadan shaped the debate to his own specifications by insisting that he never wanted to suppress the existing biology curriculum – merely to complement it with an additional point of view. A helpful creationist proposal. But the Darwinians, unlike the Voltaireans, were in no rush to yield.

Continue reading Trying To Answer Paul Berman