A One-Sided Conference On Sexual Assault

The crusade to weaken due process rights of students accused of sexual assault traveled this week to Dartmouth, which is hosting a one-week conference entitled, “Summit on Sexual Assault.” As FIRE’s Peter Bonilla pointed out, the “matter of due process for accused didn’t make the agenda”; the presenters don’t include any civil libertarians or defense attorneys. Of course, that shouldn’t be much of a surprise, given the college’s chief coordinator on the issue, Amanda Childress, mused about the possibility of expelling students based solely on an (uninvestigated) allegation. Perhaps recognizing the public relations problem, Childress wasn’t scheduled to speak during the public portions of the conference.

Responding to common-sense concerns that school tribunals aren’t capable of conducting complex investigations of violent crimes, OCR head Catherine Lhamon, pushed back: “I resist pretty hard the idea that schools don’t have a role in this.” Featured speakers included Dean Sue Wasiolek, who spoke on a panel entitled, “News from the Front Lines: Student Conduct Systems.” Earlier this year, Wasiolek explained to a Durham judge that at Duke, when an intoxicated male and an intoxicated female have sexual intercourse, Duke considers the male student a rapist and the female student a victim.

One of the conference co-organizers, David Lisak, stressed the danger of campus serial rapists: “It’s pretty clear that in a community like a college campus, you will expect and you will see that there are serial offenders, and they account for the vast majority of sexual assaults that occur in that community.” Incredibly, he suggested that colleges should handle the investigation for such dangerous criminals themselves (summarized WBUR: “He’s encouraging colleges to stay away from the trap of he-said-she-said scenarios. Instead, Lisak says schools need to bring in enough witnesses to establish that an offender is a serial offender”) rather than turning the matter over to local law enforcement.

Media reports described Lisak as a key organizer of the conference. Yet his own research on the topic of campus sexual assault calls into question the thrust of much of the recent anti-due process hysteria, which has involved allegations of date rape, usually after significant consumption of alcohol. According to Lisak, the typical campus “undetected rapist” is someone who “plans & premeditates his attacks,” “uses multiple strategies to make [his] victim vulnerable,” and “uses alcohol deliberately.”

One final element about the event: though it spans five days, its final two days are secret, with media refused access. Given the one-sided nature of the public commentary, one can only imagine what the anti-due process activists are saying behind closed doors.

More on the Times Campus Rape Story

Doubtless the Times story on Hobart and Smith will be among the items for discussion in the closed sessions. Further concerns about the objectivity of the article appeared in the Finger Lakes Times, which interviewed representatives from the local police. Among the revelations—“police were contacted by the student’s current attorney, Inga Parsons, and were told a sexual assault kit had been done at the hospital but wasn’t being turned over to police because of possible use for civil needs.” The Times had made no mention of a “civil needs” in its article.

Anna, the subject of the Times article, might well have been sexually assaulted. But the HWS disciplinary process found the accused students not culpable after the key neutral witness to the alleged attack declined to testify (for reasons the Times never explained). And the DA elected not to go forward in part, it seems, because Anna’s own attorney didn’t share key information with police (for reasons the Times never mentioned).


  • 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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