Yale’s Imaginary Crime Wave

Yale is the only university that regularly issues reports on its handling of sexual assault complaints, the result of a 2012 resolution agreement with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The university is also unusual in reporting so many sexual complaints, the result of its peculiar decision to broaden the campus definition of “sexual assault” beyond all recognition.

The newest of these reports, issued as always by Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler, has now appeared. And, as always, Spangler notes that Yale has chosen to redefine “sexual assault,” attributing to the term “broad ranges of behavior” that neither the criminal law nor common cultural understanding would define as sexual assault. Yale has never offered a convincing explanation for why it pursued this course, but the strategy does inflate the numbers, thereby helping to feed the current moral panic on campus.

The Odd Sexual Accounting at Yale

Previous reports have revealed such items as:

The number of sexual assault allegations for the second half of 2015 was considerably higher than for the first half, but Spangler says this development should have come as no surprise, given the results from a 2015 survey of the Association of American Universities. (Both Stuart Taylor and I picked apart the dubious methodology of the AAU survey. For a shorthand version: the survey wildly oversampled female students who said they reported a sexual assault allegation to their college, thereby creating an unrepresentative sample of the overall student body.) But to Spangler, AAU is gospel. “We know,” she writes, “from the AAU Survey results that prevalence rates are high and many experiences go unreported.”

Related: A One-Sided Conference on Sexual Assault

According to the Spangler Report, the Yale campus was a hotbed of violent crime between July and December, with 20 undergraduates and four graduate students reporting that they had been sexually assaulted. For Yale’s female students, these totals alone would suggest an annual violent crime rate (1.4 percent) comparable to that of Oakland, which the FBI listed as the nation’s third most dangerous city in 2014.

Surely, a crime epidemic of these proportions would have triggered Yale President Peter Salovey to coordinate with state and local police to address the issue. Surely, at the very least, police patrols of this very high-crime area should be stepped up. Perhaps a police task force should be created. And Yale could review its admissions procedures to determine why the university is admitting so many violent criminals.

None of those steps has been taken, of course. Nor will they be. The fundamental tension of the campus rape moral panic is that universities simultaneously claim that they are overrun by violent crime and that state and local law enforcement must play no role in addressing the matter—since such an approach might weaken the campus kangaroo courts that activists champion. It’s all but inconceivable to imagine any other scenario in which such a cavalier approach to a purported crime wave would be tolerated.

What Yale and the Times Did to Patrick Witt

The report itself answers the question of why President Salovey does not act. A grand total of one Yale undergraduate actually filed a complaint that went to the University-Wide Committee (UWC), the body that adjudicates campus sexual assault questions. (That case remains pending.) A second case was filed not by the student but by the Title IX coordinator—even though the Spangler Report claims that the Title IX coordinator will take action “only in extremely rare cases.”

The next two cases that went to the UWC? Both resulted in non-guilty findings—despite a procedure that’s heavily tilted toward returning a guilty outcome.

Then there’s the fifth case. Last year featured a deeply troubling scenario in which a non-Middlebury student essentially weaponized Title IX. She alleged that a Middlebury student sexually assaulted her in a study abroad program, and when she didn’t like the outcome from the study abroad program’s disciplinary process, she sent a notice to Middlebury implying she would file a Title IX complaint unless Middlebury brought the student up on sexual assault charges. Middlebury did so, employed a deeply unfair procedure, and found the student guilty. He sued, obtained a preliminary injunction, and eventually settled with the college.

At the time, I noted that perhaps the only good thing that could be said about the Middlebury case was its unusual nature. But it was a troubling precedent, since the only clear way for a college student to avoid a campus tribunal is to avoid any type of sexual contact with a fellow student.

That line seems to be breaking down. The current Spangler Report notes the following: “A Title IX Coordinator brought a formal complaint on behalf of a non-Yale student who alleged that a Yale College  student engaged in sexual penetration without consent and physically assaulted the complainant . . . The case is pending.”

There’s no indication that the non-Yale student went to police. The ostensible rationale for campus tribunals is that they set campus norms. To the extent they become absolute substitutes for the criminal justice system, providing avenues to police off-campus student behavior with non-students, the precedent is a terrifying one.

By the way, this case, too, was filed by the Title IX coordinator. So of the five cases reported to the UWC for formal resolution this past semester, two used a process that the report claims that the university employs “only in extremely rare cases.” Apparently not too rare.

Related: Expel 10 if 1 or 2 Are Guilty of Rape?

The vast majority of cases in the Spangler Report were handled informally (at least at this stage) through the office of the Title IX coordinator. In this process, the accused student effectively has no rights—but also can’t be expelled. Three of the Title IX office cases stand out:

(1) The Title IX office currently is considering a second sexual assault allegation filed by a non-Yale student against a Yale student. It’s very difficult to imagine how such a complaint does not belong before the local police rather than a Yale bureaucrat.

(2) As I’ve noted previously, the silence of the Yale faculty on this issue is especially odd, since the new Title IX regime threatens their rights as well. From the latest report comes news that a student informed a Title IX Coordinator that another Yale student reported that a faculty member made inappropriate comments in a classroom. This second-hand complaint about classroom discussion is now “pending,” under investigation.

(3) Clever students can find way to game the system. Have a tough exam coming up? Go see the Title IX office, like a Yale student who “reported that an unidentified visitor on campus made unwanted advances. The Title IX Coordinator implemented academic accommodations for the complainant.” Perhaps such advances from the unknown visitor occurred. (If the party was unknown, how did the student know it was a visitor?) But how can the Title IX investigate such a complaint to determine if “academic accommodations” are actually warranted?

Related: Let’s  Challenge the ‘Rape Culture’ Warriors

A good example of the witch-hunt atmosphere on today’s campuses is the increasing willingness of Yale students and employees to file second-hand, unsubstantiated allegations.

For instance, “an administrator informed a Title IX Coordinator that a [Yale undergraduate] student reported that an individual whom the complainant could not identify engaged in sexual touching without consent at an off-campus location.” A student informed a Title IX Coordinator that one Yale undergraduate “reported that another [Yale undergraduate] student engaged in sexual penetration without consent.” Rumor-mongering is now acceptable at Yale, as an unidentified administrator informed a Title IX Coordinator “of reports from multiple [Yale undergraduate] students that another [Yale undergraduate] student had engaged in sexual penetration without consent.”

And consider this allegation, with emphases added: “A student informed a Title IX Coordinator that an unidentified [Yale undergraduate] student reported that an unidentified [Yale undergraduate] student had engaged in sexual penetration without consent.” On what possible basis could Yale investigate this claim? And how did the reporting student possibly reach this determination?

The Spangler report lists each of the above episodes as a sexual assault. Keep that in mind when evaluating the report’s breathless statistics.


  • 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.

8 thoughts on “Yale’s Imaginary Crime Wave

  1. Yale 97:

    How do you know what you claim to know? Did you witness these events? Did the perp(s) confess to you? What evidence is there beyond the claims made by the accusers?

    Assuming for the sake of argument that you are right about the alleged crimes during your time at YC, what should have been done then is what should be done now: go to the hospital to have a SANE exam and report the assault to the police. By not doing so, they effectively enable an alleged rapist to practice their vile habits elsewhere. Some good to society that does!

    Instead, what we see is an effort of personal revenge: college expulsion and branding of the accused in a kangaroo court where virtually no standards of due process are upheld. No doubt this exacts revenge, but for what? For nothing proven beyond a reasonable doubt, that’s for sure. And to me, that’s not a just policy. The schools have no more business adjudicating claims of rape than they do adjudicating claims of attempted murder, armed robbery, embezzlement, or arson. And it is utterly despicable that the OCR of the DOJ is threatening Federal $$ to schools if they don’t dance to their tune.

  2. I appreciate the search for truth and not destroying a person’s life based on hearsay, but I graduated from Yale College in 1997 and personally know of three different women who were raped and they did not come forward or prosecute their attackers. I have no reason to believe they were lying either. I can’t speak for the current situation, but at least 20 years ago it was a real problem. I am being honest and not trying to be inflammatory.

    1. How does the current guilt-certain system help? To convict 9 innocents to punish the one true sex offender is a really poor way to make you feel good. In fact, it should make you feel much, much worse. These cases belong in the criminal justice system, not in the realm of Title IX ideologues.

    2. I am very sad to read of what happened to the women you know who experienced sexual assault. It is a sad fact, but many women (and men) who experience this horror don’t report it.

      But how does today’s “Oxbow Incident”-style of “justice” help anyone? Most especially, those individuals who are victims of actual, factual sexual assault? Who is benefitting from this? (Well, I have a pretty good idea who thinks they benefit from it, but it damn sure isn’t sexual assault victims. )

      I feel for all students at Yale male and female. They are at risk of harm from the designs of very, very bad people.

  3. We may be entertained (if we find pathetic tragedy entertaining) but we should not be surprised.

    When we pursue a Perfect World of Pure & Righteous Thinking….when we surround it with a Religion of Outrage…we arrive at the same Here & Now once celebrated in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, and Mao’s China. Everyone a potential felon. Everyone a wrong-thinking sexual/racist/cis-gendered fiend. Be on your guard! Watch your neighbor, your brother, your friends, and your parents! Tell us what you find! Sin is everywhere!

    The only protection, of course, in such a perfect world brimful of accusation, is to shout your particular accusations the loudest… to be the first to ‘out’ the Criminal Traitors — those who insist that a kiss is just a kiss, and a smile, just a smile. Any accusation will do — anonymous, perhaps, being the best as it allows our New Gestapo to more freely investigate, to turn over any and all stones in search of the Inappropriate Thing. And what is inappropriate? Why anything we so deem! It is, after all, defined only & exclusively in the mind of the beholder.

    Round them up; ship them out. Re-Educate them if we can (though it seems hardly worth it , as hopeless as Those People are).

    The only good news in all this insanity is that this New and Extraordinarily Prissy Puritanism will effectively prevent human reproduction. When any sexual interaction between potential breeding pairs can only end in prosecution, incarceration, and expulsion — how could it be otherwise?

    We can only hope that Billy the Poet and the rest of the Nothingheads are not too far behind. Welcome to the Monkey House, indeed.

  4. Thanks for another excellent example of the phenomenon H.L. Mencken observed — how our leaders rely on a constant procession of imaginary hobgoblins to keep people clamoring for the safety that those leaders claim they’ll provide.

  5. Safety/ Sanitation Rule for college men who wish to graduate: Stick to porn. Avoid all physical contact with the current crop of college women. Some of them may be infected with the feminism virus which is similar to an X-linked recessive genetic disease. It is transmitted by unaffected women but destroys the lives of men.

    1. It won’t matter if there is a female you claims you did anything your university career will be in peril. The university will be mandated to listen and believe. Sorry mate

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