At Vanderbilt, Rape Is a Crime

A horrifying story out of Vanderbilt, where four former football players–Cory Batey, JaBorian McKenzie, Brandon Vandenburg, and Brandon Banks–have been charged with sexually assaulting an unconscious Vanderbilt student. Authorities suggest that both video and photographic evidence exists to bolster the allegations. The alleged crime occurred in a Vanderbilt dorm.

If true, the allegations will–and should–raise questions of the caliber of students Vanderbilt football coach James Franklin has been recruiting. Vandenburg, for instance, was a junior college transfer. How many non-football players does an elite school like Vanderbilt admit from junior colleges every year? I suspect the number is very small indeed.

But for those concerned with campus due process, the Vanderbilt affair has the potential to be an important turning point, since the university’s behavior provides a model of how colleges should handle allegations of sexual assault, a model that squarely rejects the solutions championed by on-campus activists and their allies in the Office for Civil Rights.

Underlying the anti-due process movement, which dramatically accelerated in 2011 with the “Dear Colleague” letter and the OCR investigation of Yale, is a basic assumption: that campus rape is the sort of crime that should not be investigated by the police or handled through the criminal process, since law enforcement authorities are insufficiently sensitive to accusers and the legal process provides too many protections to the accused. Far better, according to this theory, to set up a parallel system of “justice” in which conviction is almost certain, either because of absurdly low evidentiary standards or because the accused student is denied anything approaching due process. Yale’s “informal complaint” process is the perfect example of this concept, with the university having set up a process that the accuser functionally controls and in which the accused isn’t guaranteed a right to present evidence of his innocence.

According to a statement from the Nashville Police, when Vanderbilt university police discovered evidence of a possible crime (by examining dorm video on an unrelated issue), they quickly reported that evidence to the Nashville Police. As a result, the Nashville Police, rather than untrained university administrators, conducted the criminal investigation. It appears from the statement that Vanderbilt itself (not the accuser) made the initial decision to turn the matter over to police. In short, the university did precisely what on-campus “activists” seem to strongly oppose—it treated rape as a serious crime, and as such something to be investigated by trained authorities, outside the confines of the university.

The question now: will the anti-due process campus “activists” for whom figures such as the Times’ Richard Pérez-Peña and Inside Higher Ed’s Allie Grasgreen have served as virtual stenographers now denounce Vanderbilt, for reporting a possible crime to police rather than proceeding through rigged university procedures?


  • 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.

2 thoughts on “At Vanderbilt, Rape Is a Crime

  1. It was a cold evening in early March in Massachusetts, “bonechilling” the way it can only be when it is slightly above freezing and the damp wind is from the NorthEast, and spitting snow.
    It was a Friday night and a row of young ladies were sitting on the bench of the bus stop, all attired in micro-mini skirts and shivering as the snow melted on their bare legs. They were desperately hoping that a young man — any young man — would pay a scintilla of attention to them, but the young men were all standing together in a group on the other side of the sidewalk, not daring to even make eye contact the young ladies.
    This is what we have come to — half frozen young women dressing not for comfort but to attract young men, potentially putting their health at risk in the process, and even then the young men ignored them.
    There is a real cost to *women* from all of this anti-male stuff. It’s hard enough anyway for a young man to express a romantic interest to a young lady, and all of this stuff raises the stakes to the point where they don’t dare anymore. It doesn’t affect the jerks, but the decent guys, the guys whom the women want to meet, get scared away.
    And thus you wind up with women risking pneumonia, shivering as they sit nearly naked on a wooden bench in a snowstorm, and even then unable to attract the attention of the young men whom they desperately want to have sexually interested in them.
    I don’t think this is what the feminist movement was all about — nor am I convinced that the young women of today are better off.
    When I was an undergrad, the young ladies wore jeans — and thermal underwear underneath their jeans when it was snowing. They didn’t need to risk exposure to the elements in order to attract the attention of young men back then, and I’m struck at how times have change.

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