Yale’s latest report on its new sexual assault policy, written by Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler, is already drawing fire. The feminist blog Jezebel angrily asserts that at Yale, rape “is described as ‘nonconsensual sex,’ and it’s usually punishable by ‘written reprimand.'” Anti-due process activists on campus, according to Jezebel, are similarly infuriated.
But at Yale, rape and “nonconsensual sex” are very much not the same. By the university’s own admission, Yale “uses a more expansive definition of sexual assault” (including such measurements as threatened “economic abuse“) than city, state, or federal guidelines require. So there’s no reason to believe that a student identified as committing what Yale terms “nonconsensual sex” actually committed rape, as that term is commonly understood. (An easy indication: it appears as if none of the accusers in the cases referenced by Jezebel actually filed police reports, much less had their cases taken to criminal trial.) The real story of the latest report is the university’s continued movement away from basic due process in handling sexual assault claims.
The report shows that Yale’s “informal complaint” procedure–designed, Spangler reminded readers, to give accusers “control over the process, whenever possible”–continues its guilt-presuming approach. The procedure’s guidelines deny accused students a right to counsel, cross-examination, or even to introduce exculpatory evidence. In early 2013, one Yale female student filed an informal complaint alleging that a male student “made unwanted sexual advances and physically restrained her. The respondent disputed the allegations.” Nonetheless, Yale administrators “counseled the respondent on appropriate conduct, and restricted the respondent from contacting the complainant.” Another female Yale student filed an informal complaint alleging that a male student “engaged in certain nonconsensual acts during sexual activity with her. The respondent disputed the allegations.” Nonetheless, Yale administrators “counseled the respondent on appropriate conduct.”
To reiterate: in both of these cases, the accused student disputed the allegations. Yale gave no sign of having investigated the claims. But the accused student nonetheless was punished or “counseled.” Guilt is simply presumed.
Twice, the Spangler document reveals that the Yale acted–including once against a faculty member–even when complaints were anonymous. When an anonymous graduate student reported that a male faculty member “made inappropriate remarks of a sexual nature, “an administrator of the school reported the incident to the department chair, who will monitor the climate in the department.” Yale appears untroubled by the incentive the policy gives to the filing of malicious anonymous complaints.
The report continues Yale’s unbroken record of not appearing to have investigated any student for filing a false complaint, despite the dozens of complaints received since the new policy was instituted two years ago. Yale accusers, it seems, are a very, very truthful lot.
The Jezebel story concludes by urging Yale to imitate Duke, which recently toughened its on-campus sexual assault punishment terms. The idea that Duke–of all institutions–should be viewed as a model of how universities should handle sexual assault cases gives a sense of just how extreme the anti-due process movement has become.