‘Feelings’ as the Measure of Student Misconduct

Two of our best writers here at Minding the Campus, KC Johnson and Harvey Silverglate, spoke quite brilliantly at a Manhattan Institute luncheon last Wednesday on “Kangaroo Courts: Yale, Duke and Student Rights.” It is, in our opinion, the best possible short course for understanding the star-chamber proceedings that students face these days at campuses great and small. Duke, we should say, mostly got a pass. Outrages at Harvard and Yale were center-stage.

For Johnson, the key word in Yale’s undermining of student rights is “worry.” Yale extends the concept of sexual assault to cover any “worry” on the part of a complaining student. If you fret, you’ve been victimized. Accordingly, facts don’t count for much. The accused is not allowed to be heard and the accuser, who essentially runs the hearing, must be satisfied with the result. Yale was aided in the preposterous smearing of student Patrick Witt by unusually bad reporting in the New York Times.

For Silverglate, the key word is often “hurt,” because causing anyone to feel hurt on campus is now a very serious offense, as it was when Dean Martha Minow of the Harvard Law School cited “hurt” as her reason for excoriating a student for her opinion–expressed in a private communication–that maybe some research on race and intelligence might be a worthwhile idea.

Johnson’s talk is on our site today. Silverglate’s will appear tomorrow. And the day after, we will post the unusually spirited Q&A that followed. The full unedited proceedings will be on the site as podcasts. Our thanks to Howard Husock, vice president for policy research at Manhattan Institute, who moderated the luncheon discussion.

John Leo

John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

13 thoughts on “‘Feelings’ as the Measure of Student Misconduct

  1. Why not flood the “harassment” department at Yale with complaints that their new rules cause worry? They have to investigate, right?

  2. I feel like dean minow has the solution. do some research on race relations and intelligence, so the dean will be able to read it and maybe get a better handle on what each word means. these affirmative action degrees and auto-promotion tracks they get do not make for the best quality people in these type positions, as is evidenced here. oh how the mighty have fallen.

  3. I attended a small rural private college from ’73-’77. There were codes of conduct on campus, but they mostly dealt with drinking and illegal drug use, rather than any sort of other conduct. Oh, to be sure, there were academic consequences for cheating or plagiarism, however it wasn’t more complicated than that. Even further, because it was in an area of the Midwest where hunting was an extremely common activity we were allowed to keep our weapons on campus, albeit locked in a room that only the resident staffer had a key to. No one was murdered, no one was raped, no one filed charges of harassment or other offenses in the entire four years I attended the school, and in the three or four after graduation when I was still close with students there.
    On a lark last fall, I went to the college’s website, and download the 100+ page student conduct manual which all students must sign, and agree to abide by. I believe, and don’t have any doubt that it’s true that I, along with countless peers of both sexes, would have been expelled from that college within the first month of our attendance there if those same regulations had been in place in ’73.
    Coincidentally, of course, the tuition, room, board, books, and fees today are nearing six times what they were at that time, and having read some of the published papers from some of the graduates it is my firm belief that they wasted four years of their lives, and came out with no increase in their intelligence.
    What a sad decline in education, where the students don’t really learn anything except that they’re either going to be potential violators or potential victims of “something.” And we wonder at this.
    I haven’t contributed money to the school in years, and after reading that document I doubt if I will in the future.

  4. I wonder when “worry crime” will be enforced on the basis of “disparate impact”.
    I am very worried about the economy and Democrat incompetence. Does this mean I can sue for recourse, with Yale providing the venue?
    Farce. Weak people, weak minds.
    There were witch trials in CT long ago, I think. Obviously Yale didn’t learn from history.

  5. So if you and your date were to have differences of opinion on a political or legal matter, oh, say like what the real role of the Supreme Court is regarding the Constitution, and her feelings were hurt, you would be guilty of sexual assault?
    I guess that’s one way to shut up your political opponents….just date them.

  6. I am hurt that people would demand to see my college transcripts. Obviously, they are racist.

  7. Yet to be seen how the debate will unfold. But practices such as these will continue on campuses until someone wins a hefty lawsuit against them.
    College admins are simply responding to the loudest pressure, which at this point comes from various self-styled feminist groups. But sue the pants off them — and win — and a newfound respect for due process will blossom across a hundred campuses…

  8. > For Silverglate, the key word is often “hurt,”
    I read this and it reminds me of my youth, when
    I used to irritate/harass/torment my sisters.
    Often, we would hear: “Mom, Robbie’s looking
    at me!” Because I would make these big Dracula-like eyes that would freak them out.
    If only it was so funny as what we are reading
    above. It isn’t. It’s just as juvenile with
    much more sinister outcomes not unlike an inquisition with censure or whatever other
    punished doled out for “serious offenses.”

  9. OK, I’m a gun toting bible clinging rural Nevada hick. So fill me in. Why would you risk 100’s of thousands of dollars sending your boy child to a school like this? I get that one might agree with the prevailing ideology but how can it be worth the risk. Does the administration really see increasing the likelyhood of exposing their male studants to possible life destroying consequences as a smart marketing move? Really?

  10. I wrote a book about this called Bias Incident: The World’s Most Politically Incorrect Novel.
    When I wrote the part in which the “victim” who persecutes the protagonist testified that he felt that the protagonist’s motive was hatred (and the court took him seriously), I was worried that it was a bit of an exaggeration.
    But, life imitates Bias Incident: The World’s Most Politically Incorrect Novel. (available at Amazon).

  11. If I were a white male attending Yale, I would be worried about how the administration of Yale is interpreting the rules. Does that mean I could charge them with sexual assault if worry is the standard?

  12. Given the NYT coverage of the Trayvon Martin incident, is it really fair to characterize any of their reporting as “unusually bad:?

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