Occidental and the “Rape Culture” Hysteria

The latest due process lawsuit comes against a highly vulnerable target: Occidental. Occidental is the California college whose rules allow branding a male student a rapist even if his female partner says “yes” to sexual intercourse. Moreover, the school includes what seems to be a disproportionate number of anti-due process “activists,” professors inclined toward delusional claims against their administration even as they suggest that outsiders should trust their credibility that the campus is awash in rape.

The Occidental case is, if anything, more extreme than the typical due process case, because of the involvement of an anti-due process member of the Occidental faculty, Danielle Dirks. Dirks counseled the accuser to file a sexual assault claim in the case, according to a confidential report prepared by Occidental and obtained by FIRE, because the accused student “fit the profile of other rapists on campus in that he had a high GPA in high school, was his class valedictorian, was on [a sports] team, and was ‘from a good family.'” (Imagine the howling from the Occidental faculty if the school more generally used profiling on criminal matters.) Moreover, the accuser went to police, who, along with prosecutors, concluded that both parties had too much to drink, but no rape occurred, since both were “willing participants.”

Yet Occidental branded the accused student a rapist anyway, prompting a lawsuit in which the accused student claims that the school failed to follow its own procedures, which are heavily tilted toward making a guilty finding. At Occidental, an accused student can be found guilty on a preponderance of evidence (50.01 percent threshold). He is denied the right to counsel in the proceedings; can’t see the evidence against him compiled by the college “investigator” until 48 hours before the hearing; has a limited right to direct cross-examination; and functions in a process in which, according to the college’s own guidelines terms like “innocence” and “burdens of proof” are “not applicable.”

Only the most indifferent judge would not look at this case very closely.

Ironically, as the Occidental lawsuit was filed, the issue of due process claims finally penetrated the fog of the “rape culture” journalist-activists. None of what are now more than a dozen such lawsuits have been mentioned by BuzzFeed‘s Katie Baker or the New York Times‘ Richard Perez-Pena, even as many suits have occurred in these publications’ backyard. But Huffington Post‘s Tyler Kingkade cracked the cone of silence in a piece earlier this week on the Duke case.

Kingkade’s article quotes from three commentators who embraced the need for due process; he even managed to track down the very rare pro-“victim” figure who favored due process in college hearings. But Kingkade’s own “straight” news pieces of the article are almost comically biased. After repeating the 1-in-5 claim (without mentioning that, if true, the claim makes colleges the highest-crime areas in the whole country), Kingkade dismisses due process claims as a “novelty.” As Robert Shibley pointed out in a fairly-reported piece by Michelle Goldberg in the Nation, these claims (whether or not once a “novelty”) are now quite common–FIRE says it gets two inquiries a week–because of the procedural changes demanded by the “Dear Colleague” letter.

And then Kingkade offers this howler: “That a student would be expelled on what proves to be a demonstrably false charge would be exceedingly rare. Increasingly less rare are the lawsuits brought by individuals punished by colleges and universities after having been found culpable for sexual misconduct.”

And yet in each and every one of the due process lawsuits, the student is claiming that the allegation against him was false. In Kingkade’s telling, all that’s at stake in these lawsuits are admitted rapists who are claiming that while they committed a sexual assault, the college violated some sort of technicality and they should get away with it.

Perhaps before reporting on the due process lawsuits, Kingkade could take the time to read one of them?


  • 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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