Foolishness At Hofstra

As president of a university that experienced a high-profile false rape claim, Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz would have a long way to go to match the poor performance of Duke president Richard Brodhead.
That said, Rabinowitz certainly would win no awards for profiles in courage. In response to the filing of false sexual assault charges by one of his institution’s students, Danmell Ndonye, Rabinowitz announced that Hofstra administrators “will redouble our educational efforts and try to increase awareness among students, faculty, and staff of any potential signs of danger or dangerous behavior, and the need to pass that information on to Public Safety so that it can be adequately and appropriately addressed.”
And these were not merely words. Rabinowitz appointed a presidential task force “to undertake a review of all aspects of security, including operations, communications, programs, policies and procedures to insure that we are taking every possible precaution to maintain a secure and safe campus. In addition, we will once again be seeking to utilize the services of an outside consultant to conduct a security audit and make recommendations as to best practices and possible enhancements to our program.”
If, as Ndonye claimed, she had been lured into a campus bathroom by several men, tied up, and then raped, Rabinowitz’s proposal would make perfect sense. The failure of Hofstra’s campus security to have protected Ndonye would be a major scandal for the university. Indeed, the Hofstra rape would be another Kitty Genovese affair, with the focus in this instance on the callousness of the myriad Hofstra students in the dorm who remained indifferent to Ndonye’s screams of horror.

The problem with this scenario: Ndonye wasn’t raped. She admitted that she made up the story, after a video confirmed her lie.
So how, exactly, would reforming Hofstra’s security policies guard against female undergraduates making false rape claims?
Of course, it would not do so. But Rabinowitz’s course of action—effectively pretending that Ndonye told the truth, and then proceeding from there—will appease campus ideologues trained to believe that women never lie about rape.
In forming his faux policy, Rabinowitz was doubtless thinking of people like Jennifer Beeman, the former director of UC Davis’ Campus Violence Prevention Program. Distressed that the number of reported rapes on her campus didn’t come anywhere close to what campus ideologues want us to believe, Beeman simply made up totals—year after year after year. Incredibly, Davis initially not only turned a blind eye to Beeman’s deceptions but cited the outrageously high figures as proving that its campus treated “survivors” with more sensitivity than other UC branches.
Or, perhaps, the Hofstra president had in mind the likes of Angus Johnston, a History Ph.D. (from, alas, the CUNY Graduate Center, where I’m on the faculty) whose CV reports that he last taught at the not exactly fair-and-balanced Center for Worker Education, City College of New York. Johnston, after asserting that he was “not interested in having a discussion about whether [Ndonye] was raped, or how likely it is that [Ndonye] was raped,” then engaged in just such a discussion, with the extraordinary argument that “it’s possible that [Ndonye] lied and that some or all of them [the falsely accused men] are guilty.”
Johnston’s evidence for this startling claim? None.
Johnston seems to be the perfect type for President Rabinowitz’s campus task force.


  • KC Johnson

    KC Johnson is a history professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author, along with Stuart Taylor, of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America's Universities.

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5 thoughts on “Foolishness At Hofstra

  1. oldfeminist, I believe there is a certain principle in American law called “innocent until proven guilty”. Do you have evidence that any of the scenarios that you mention actually happened? Why bring them up if you don’t have evidence? I suggest a course in remedial logic if you don’t understand that.

  2. So you think it is IMpossible that she lied and that some or all of them are guilty?
    Lying includes misrepresenting in any degree.
    If she says they held her down while raping her and instead they didn’t, but they raped her, she’s “lying.”
    If she says four of them raped her but actually five did, then she’s lying.
    If she says she fought back as hard as she could, but she didn’t, maybe because she was afraid they’d hurt her back, then she’s lying.
    If she realized that anything she did might be used to try to prove she didn’t object strenuously enough and that they might get away because of it, she might lie. That wouldn’t mean they didn’t rape her, just that she wanted to present it more strongly so that idiots who think rape is always at the point of a gun or knife and good girls fight until they’re disabled would still believe her.
    I suggest a course in remedial logic if you don’t understand these examples.

  3. KC,
    By stripping my quote from its context, and stripping away some crucial italics, I fear you may have left your readers with an inaccurate impression of my argument. Here’s the passage in question with the context, and the italics, restored:
    If a woman is raped by a man she’s been intimate with before, or raped in the course of a sexual encounter that began as consensual, or raped in circumstances in which her judgment may be called into question, she can expect to be disbelieved, shamed, and attacked, and that expectation may lead a rape survivor to alter her story to make it more palatable to police, or to a jury, or even to her friends and family.
    I don’t know what happened that night, and I expect that I never will. I’m not accusing any of the five men who were named of anything, and I’m not saying that the fact that they were accused means they must have done something wrong. I don’t know, and I’m not interested in speculating.
    I do, though, want to say clearly that the question of what happened isn’t a binary one of “she told the truth, and they’re guilty” vs. “she lied, so they’re innocent.”
    It’s possible that she lied and that some or all of them are guilty.
    I see two factual claims in the above passage: first, that “a rape survivor [may] alter her story to make it more palatable to police, or to a jury, or even to her friends and family,” and second, that it’s possible — not likely, not probable, just possible — that Ndonye’s original lie was a lie of that kind.
    I’ll leave it to your readers to decide how “startling” those claims are.

  4. The campus rape crisis industry does promote a pernicious politics. The ways it targets men on campus is well-documented: not only the few who are directly wrongly accused but all males of certain cohorts get blamed for sexual violence.
    Less noticed are the ways campus rape activists actually fail to address real rapes, those arising from street crime in particular. I’ve never seen a campus rape crisis group use its energies to advocate for minimum mandatory sentencing for sex offenders, for example, or targeted recidivism laws, or expansion of the DNA database, such as through DNA testing for arrestees. Yet these initiatives are credited with solving many thousands of rapes and preventing thousands of others.
    In fact, campus rape activists in many states have lobbied in recent years to reduce sentences for certain offenders. There are admittedly complicated reasons for wishing to create “sliding scales” of sex crime charges, but in the real-politick world of criminal prosecution, such laws often have the effect of enabling the worst offenders to plead down even more than they were doing before, rather than increasing the percentage of real sex offenses that get prosecuted. And the largest cohort of sex offenders who get away with the crime — same-household child molesters — don’t even really register on their agendas.
    In my experience, these activists are both dangerously naive and far more interested in promoting a politics of accusation than actually protecting women from rape. Add to that the self-righteous, Mailer-esque fantasies of many law professors, creative writing professors, and college presidents (like John Silber) who pour campus resources into absurd “prison outreach programs,” shower degrees on rapists and murderers, and lobby to get sex criminals released even after DNA proves their guilt, and college campuses can be truly nauseating places for real victims of rape.

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