More Grotesque Sex Hearings at Yale

Yale has released the latest of its biannual reports regarding sexual assault claims handled through the university’s due process-unfriendly disciplinary system. The report testifies to some interesting changes, strongly suggesting that Yale adjudicates sexual assault claims less on a principle of justice and more out of a concern with avoiding negative public relations.

The background for this new release comes in Yale’s previous report, which appeared in September and was penned (as were all previous reports) by Yale Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler. Like other Spangler offerings, it offered hints of the Orwellian nature of sexual assault proceedings at Yale while going out of its way not to describe the specific procedures under which accused Yale students were tried.

But “activists” and some sympathizers in the media, such as Huffington Post’s Tyler Kingkade, seized on another element of the September report: despite claiming that several men had committed sexual offenses, Yale hadn’t expelled any of the offenders. There was, of course, a good reason for this: Yale’s extraordinarily broad definition of sexual assault meant that the university was deeming as rapists people who no jurisdiction anywhere in the country would consider guilty of anything approximating rape. In these instances, the “punishment” might have actually fit the “crime.”

At the time, the university defended itself by releasing “scenarios” that only proved Yale had redefined the term sexual assault beyond all recognition. (Cathy Young brilliantly illustrated the point.) But it’s clear that the activists’ complaints generated results.

The new Spangler Report contains two important items. First, it revealed that during the past six months, the university has not handled one sexual assault case through the “informal complaint” procedure. (“During this reporting period (July 1 – December 31, 2013), there were 0 informal resolutions pursued through the UWC.”) This is an enormous change, since past Spangler documents had suggested that many, and in some semesters most, of Yale’s cases were handled informally.

At first blush, the move might seem an advance for due process rights. Under the “informal complaint” procedure, the accused student lacks the right to introduce evidence of his innocence. Instead, the process is designed to give the accuser maximum control of what passes for the judicial process. In such a “court,” conviction is all but assured once a complaint is made.

But in the changed environment caused by the activists’ August criticism, the “informal complaint” procedure had one major drawback: punishment options are limited. So Yale can almost at will designate students as rapists–this is the “procedure” that affected former Yale quarterback Patrick Witt–but the punishment is the designation, seemingly to make the accuser feel better about her situation.

With boosting punishment (seemingly) Yale’s chief new goal, the “informal complaint” procedure has effectively been set aside. Its replacement, the formal complaint procedure, gives a handful of rights to the accused student, but bows to the OCR preponderance of evidence standard, allows conviction on a 3-2 vote of a panel specially chosen from the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, severely limits the ability of the accused student to call witnesses, and doesn’t even require the panel to take into account “reports and evidence collected by law enforcement bodies.” Why, it seems, let the facts get in the way of the preferred outcome?

Punishment is the order of the day in the cases handled through the formal complaint procedures. Over the past six months, all but one student was convicted (and even he was given an order to stay away from his accuser). The other cases are either pending or led to two- or four-term suspensions, with two accused students electing to withdraw rather than contest through procedures that are all but rigged.

Yale’s Title IX coordinator was unusually busy over the past six months, handling 50 complaints, most of them allegations of sexual harassment. Some of these complaints involved (alleged) conduct that would fit into the commonly understood definition of sexual harassment. But others highlight the unusual atmosphere at Yale and most college campuses. One male student, for instance, is now under investigation because a female student claimed he “paid unwanted attention to her.” And several students were investigated on the basis of either third-party or anonymous reports.

Continuing the pattern that professors as well as students are vulnerable to the university’s Orwellian procedures, there’s this item: “An anonymous individual [emphasis added] reported that a male faculty member made inappropriate comments of a sexual nature and engaged in other inappropriate conduct to several staff members. The respondent was suspended pending the investigation, which is ongoing.”

So a Yale faculty member was suspended solely–at least according to the Spangler document–on the basis of an anonymous complaint. Even if the professor is ultimately exonerated, this move exemplifies the remarkable, unchecked power given to virtually anyone on the Yale campus to commence a witch hunt against a male student or even faculty member who has crossed the accuser.

And, finally, the case from the current report that (unintentionally) best reveals the Kafka-esque environment that now prevails at Yale. Spangler indicates that “an anonymous [graduate] student reported that a [graduate] student, who was not identified, made inappropriate remarks of a sexual nature.”

The investigation, Spangler informs us, “is pending.”


  • 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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7 thoughts on “More Grotesque Sex Hearings at Yale

  1. Spangler indicates that “an anonymous [graduate] student reported that a [graduate] student, who was not identified, made inappropriate remarks of a sexual nature.”
    Well, that’s what she said.
    So what used to be a not always rip-roaring funny joke has now become grounds for a witch hunt?
    Victorian prudishness meets Orwellian totalitarianism.

  2. One needs to remember that the witchcraft allegations in Hawthorn’s _House of Seven Gables_ were motivated by the quality of water in the well — and that the charges were fabricated so that the Judge could acquire the well after it’s owner had been executed upon conviction.
    I can’t help but wonder if the Yale professor is being crucified for something completely unrelated — that this is merely the cudgel being used by a bully who wishes to harm him.
    I was the victim of something similar — a malicious and completely false allegation that was considered to be not only completely unfounded but maliciously fabricated in response to my activities as the adviser to the UMass Amherst Republican Club.
    Academia apparently exists in a dimension beyond both facts and logic, and even though it was widely known that the Massachusetts Republican Party didn’t particularly like me, that this was coming from them, and that it was generally believed that there wasn’t a scintilla of truth in any of it, none of that mattered. And to this day, in a most macabre sort of way, I like to joke about my ability to see through solid walls — it isn’t the four inches of brick that usually obscures one’s view as much as the six inches of stucco behind it — but somehow I have this ability to see through both.
    The MassGOP has long been known for its fratricide, Bill Weld spoke of the “shootout in the lifeboat” but by 2009 this could be better described as touching off 155mm Howitzers in that lifeboat, with things getting rather ugly. I was the adviser to a student organization and that’s what I saw my role as, no more or less — and I am an Eagle Scout.
    When one faction of the MassGOP got a leader of the other — a UMass undergrad — arrested for something he hadn’t done and for which he would be denied bail, I’m the one who got him out of jail. (Ten months later, charges with dropped with a nolle prosequi.)
    When I heard that undergrads were chasing each other across campus with vehicles, I asked the police (and everyone else I cold think of) to please do *something* to stop this before someone got killed. And when I heard a rumor that some of the people involved in these antics were getting drunk in a certain individual’s fraternity room prior to engaging in these activities, I brought the matter to the attention of the UM administrator responsible for fraternities so it could be stopped if it was in fact happening.
    For this, my reputation was largely destroyed. Maliciously so, and with total impunity to those who did it.
    Should I have left an innocent man in jail for 10 months until the “law & order” judge would hear what the student was actually accused of and be so outraged that he would advise the prosecutor of “the wisdom of” never bringing that charge back into his courtroom?
    Should I have ignored the fact that young people were doing inherently dangerous things with motor vehicles, and that they might also be doing so while intoxicated?
    Or not done some of the other things that the UM administrators involved were very glad I did, but which I can’t mention because of both FERPA and student privacy?
    Forget the “heckler’s veto”, anyone aggrieved by someone who does the “right thing” — who does things for which he/she/it would be applauded — now has to fear retaliation of this sort.
    It is perhaps important to remember that during the French Revolution those who were doing the beheading quickly found themselves being the ones beheaded. That is where I fear we are going with some of this stuff — if we aren’t already there.
    And knowing what I now do, would I still have done the (quite necessary) things I did five years ago, or would I not? I like to think I would, but that question scares me most of all….

  3. Well, I hate to say this because some misguided fool might actually do it, but the best way to teach these people a lesson is to file a sexual complaint against a member of The Powers That Be and see how quickly the rules get worked in their favor.

  4. Are the complainants anonymous to the Star Chamber members, or is their identity withheld for the public only?
    If the former, is it beyond the wit of male students to start making dozens of ‘anonymous’ complaints against campus feminists, either students or faculty?

  5. Yale needs to answer this question for its faculty, student body, and alumni: was a Yale faculty member suspended solely on the basis of an anonymous complaint, without any investigation whatsoever? If the answer is yes, then the ballgame is over, due process is dead on campus.

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