Category Archives: Short Takes

The Lack of Integrity at Penn

“The diversity imperative demands dissimulation and evasion,” Heather Mac Donald writes in City Journal about the public shaming by Penn Law School of Professor Amy Wax for pointing out hard truths about racial preferences. Many of us would put that assertion less politely and simply say that sustaining such preferences and cloaking their true costs requires a good deal of sustained lying. Mac Donald argues that the ubiquity of racial preferences must be suppressed in public discourse, “since they undercut the narrative that white racism is the driving force in American society.”

Read more about Amy Wax and academic freedom here:

The Media Slams Yale Student Verdict on Rape

Last week, a New Haven jury acquitted Yale student Saifullah Khan of rape. Coverage of the case provided only the latest reminder of the one-sided, often effectively misleading manner in which the mainstream media covers the issue of campus sexual assault.

Because criminal charges were filed against Khan, he was entitled to constitutional protections (the right to representation from a lawyer who could fully participate in the process, the requirement that the state turn over all exculpatory evidence in its possession) that students accused through the campus Title IX process lack. An explosive filing from Khan’s lawyers on the eve of the trial suggested that the Yale Police Department withheld exculpatory information from the prosecutors; that investigators made improper comments about Khan’s ethnicity; and that Yale Title IX officials might have improperly disclosed FERPA-protected information about Khan. (The latter issue, ironically, also was raised in the Jack Montague case, which took place about the same time as the Khan allegations.)

Saifullah Khan . Photo-Fire
Saifullah Khan . Photo-Fire

This framework, however, appeared nowhere in coverage of the verdict, neither in the campus press nor in the mainstream media, which instead displayed a thinly-concealed bias that the jury got things wrong. The New York Times set the tone for coverage. The paper ran a long article on the case before the start of trial, framed under a thesis that the number of campus allegations reported to police was “vanishingly small.” Times reporter Veronica Wang wrote, “The Department of Justice estimates that between 4 percent and 20 percent of female college students who are raped report the attack to law enforcement.”

The 20 percent figure actually comes from a DOJ study, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. (It applies only to college students who say they’re raped, since, of course, non-reported allegations can’t be tested for accuracy.) But the “4 percent” study, though funded by the Justice Department, contains the following disclaimer: “Any opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of BJS and the U.S. Department of Justice.” It’s puzzling, therefore, that Wang would refer to the 4 percent figure as a DOJ “estimate[].”

Wang—now with a team of Times reporters—returned to New Haven for two long articles after the verdict. The first went through multiple edits, in a manner that seemed designed to conceal the reporters’ biases. The initial article, for instance, described an event that ended with a not-guilty verdict as one that featured a “victim” who had an experienced an “assault.” (After an outcry on Twitter, the Times added “alleged” to both descriptions, and changed another description of “victim” to “complainant.”) The initial article detailed the accuser’s “often tearful” testimony. (That description, too, got edited out.) The Times’ failure to acknowledge the stealth edits robs the reader of a chance to understand the context in which the article was written.

One odd factual assertion remained. “The state’s attorney’s office,” Wang and her colleagues wrote, “represented the complainant.” Does the New York Times really believe that the prosecutor represents the accuser, and not the people? Connecticut’s ethics guidelines, for instance, reveal the special obligations for prosecutors—obligations that wouldn’t apply if the prosecutor’s job was simply to “represent” the accuser.

The second post-verdict Times piece explored the differences between the definitions of consent in campus tribunals and in a court of law. (Wang did not mention that in a campus tribunal, Khan would have been denied the right to meaningful legal representation.) The Times quoted from a juror, Khan’s attorney—and multiple accusers’ rights advocates or sympathizers. Absent were the perspectives of FIRE, or FACE, or law professors who had expressed concern about due process.

This piece did quote from Vanessa Griogoriadis—author of a book hailing the guilt-presuming approach in current campus adjudication processes—who noted (seemingly approvingly) that campus tribunals, unlike courts, can return guilty findings for sexual behavior that’s “immoral but not criminal.” Meanwhile, the Yale Daily News paraphrased legal expert Katherine Baker: “Baker said the behavior Khan admitted to during the trial may not reflect the norms of respect and civility that most universities require of their students, even if his conduct was not criminal.”

Campus tribunals as morality police is the sort of thing that—as recently as a decade ago—would have been seen only on a small number of religious-right campuses. The idea that Yale is now little more than a left-wing version of BYU or Baylor is an unintentionally revealing commentary on the Puritanical strand behind the Title IX crusade.

Griogoriadis and Baker seemed like due process fanatics compared with Yale Daily News staff columnist Amelia Nierenberg who contended that despite the jury’s verdict, Khan was “not ‘not guilty.’” “Using legal standards of ‘not guilty,’” she fumed, “do not apply in a private community like Yale.” (Better to bow to the passions of the mob, it seems.) Her proposed standard: sex “outside the realm of appropriate” should equal expulsion. Nierenberg seemed particularly perturbed that the legal system, unlike Yale, doesn’t recognize the “affirmative consent” standard, which requires the accused student to prove that he obtained consent and thus shifts the burden of proof.

At least Nierenberg was writing an opinion column. How to explain a straight news Yale Daily News piece from Hailey Fuchs and two co-authors, which contained the following item: Yale student (and Khan rival in a Yale club) “Miller told the News she was concerned because she had heard in early 2014 — more than a year and a half before Khan was arrested on charges of sexual assault for the Halloween incident — that multiple female students had considered reporting Khan for sexual misconduct.”

No Free Speech on Four Canadian Campuses

Students at Canadian campuses have refused to allow three right-to-life clubs and one male-awareness group on the grounds that they don’t like what the clubs’ missions. The student union at the University of Toronto (Mississauga) refused to re-recognize the campus club “Students for Life” because of its “stance on abortion.” (It can’t be an anti-abortion club because it’s anti-abortion.)

“Speak for the Weak” was not recognized at Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology because allowing the club would violate “human rights” and constitute “systemic societal oppression.”

Ryerson University’s refused to allow a men’s awareness group that would have worked on homelessness, workplace injuries, men’s higher suicide rates, and their greater failure in schools. It currently has a female president and half its membership is female. But Ryerson’s student union said that the “Woman and Trans collective” was already working on these problems, and besides, men have “systemic privilege,” and a club devoted to men’s problems would make women feel “unsafe.”

Three of the would-be clubs took their case to Ontario Superior Court, which dismissed them all with unusually airy rhetoric saying there is “no entitlement to union club status, and official status has nothing to do with freedom to associate or freedom of expression.” But club status on campus allows participants in clubs a week to recruit new members, book meeting rooms for free, advertise events on campus, and host guest speakers.

Another Incoherent Protest This Time by Law Students

Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and member of the National Association of Scholars Board of Advisors, was the target of a disruptive protest, Monday, March 5, at the Lewis and Clark Law School. Sommers had been invited to speak by the Law School’s chapter of The Federalist Society.

Brutal man wearing usa flag cape posing in white smoke outdoors

In advance of the event, several activist groups called on the Federalist Society “to rescind” the invitation, announcing their intention to stage a protest if the event went ahead. The inflamed students seemed to believe that Sommers somehow qualified as a fascist. The manifesto, titled, “Refuse Fascism in All Its Forms” was signed “in solidarity” by:

  • National Lawyers Guild, Lewis & Clark Student Chapter
  • Minority Law Student Association
  • Women’s Law Caucus
  • Immigration Student Group
  • Jewish Law Society
  • OutLaw
  • Lewis & Clark Young Democratic Socialists of America
  • Black Law Student Association
  • Latino Law Society

The event, which can be viewed here, went ahead on schedule, as did the disruption, and was reported by Inside Higher Ed, National Review, The Federalist, American Greatness, and Campus Reform, among others. As the details are readily accessible, I’ll add only some observations.

Protests are seldom really about the object of the protest. They are about the protesters, who seek attention for their organizations, their causes, their ideologies, and themselves. And they are about achieving a certain kind of emotional release, bordering on frenzy. The scheduled talk by Christina Hoff Sommers merely provided an opportunity for the protesters to show-off. The protesters showed no interest in disputing her ideas or opinions, except to snatch phrases to fuel their own chants.

In this sense, the protest at Lewis & Clark Law School fits the pattern of recent campus protests which feature bizarre accusations, an astonishing ignorance of history, a fragmented attention span, and a mordantly amusing lack of self-awareness. As the protesters engaged in their act of open aggression aimed at silencing a speaker, they boasted of their opposition to aggression, while Sommers waited patiently and politely at the podium.

Protests at colleges and universities are also typically met with indulgence by the administrators in charge. Perhaps the sine qua non of this was the board of trustees meeting at Swarthmore College in May 2014. After the meeting was swarmed by protesters who commandeered the microphone, a non-protesting student pleaded with then-president Rebecca Chopp to intervene. Chopp rebuffed the student and stayed in her seat, letting the protest go on without any effort to restore order. Much the same happened, of course, at Middlebury College in March 2017, when President Laurie Patton, couldn’t find any reason to restore order at the near-riot against Charles Murray.

At Lewis & Clark, the presiding administrator was Janet Steverson, a law professor and dean of diversity and inclusion. Steverson’s intervention consisted of telling Sommers to abbreviate her remarks and go directly to a Q&A session. Afterward, Steverson told a reporter that students who blocked access to the event and interrupted Sommers would face “consequences,” though she couldn’t specify what the consequences would be. The consequences for the protesters at Middlebury were essentially make-believe. It will be interesting to see if Lewis & Clark Law School rouses itself to hold would-be lawyers to ordinary standards of law-abiding and civil behavior in a public setting.

Those of us who have been tracking these events don’t have the highest expectations for such accountability. We do, however, have the names of the organizations that participated in this debacle. It would be wise if, in the next few years, law firms and other organizations looking to hire new attorneys were to ask candidates who are Lewis & Clark graduates about their involvement in these bodies. The question would help screen for qualities of intelligence and character that might have some bearing on their future performance as lawyers. This being Portland, those qualities might be considered assets by some firms, especially those in the business of promoting anti-fascist agit-prop aimed at people who are deemed enemies of the revolution. Other firms, however, might want to continue the search.

The Mysterious Missing Funds at Georgetown

After a month of controversy, the mystery of the siphoned checks at Georgetown University is no closer to being solved. In late January, the campus became aware that three donors who sent money last fall to Love Saxa, the oddly named pro-life campus group that believes in traditional marriage, were getting receipts informing them that the funds had been deposited in the accounts of campus gay groups, not Love Saxa. Since two Georgetown gays had mounted an angry campaign to derecognize Love Saxa and have it booted off campus as a “hate group” for not supporting gay marriage, many wondered whether the diversion of the checks was part of that campaign.

Georgetown investigated Love Saxa for weeks and quizzed its officers for almost four hours before finally rejecting those calls and refusing to kick the group off campus for advocating views that mirror Catholic teaching on a Catholic campus. Many critics pointed out that Georgetown couldn’t let Love Saxa be labeled a hate group without inviting that label for itself. Kelly Marcum, a founder of Love Saxa, now the Government Affairs office coordinator at Family Research Council, said: “If Love Saxa is banned from defending the Christian vision of sexuality and marriage, how will the Jesuits of Georgetown be able to refrain from referring to their own Church as a “hate group”? How long before they will be called on to condemn the doctrinal tenets of Catholicism??

The group’s unusual name stems from Georgetown’s college chant “Hoya Saxa,” which translates as “what rocks.” Love Saxa means “love rocks.” The Alliance Defending Freedom, representing Love Saxa in this case, described how several donations from private individuals to Love Saxa were misappropriated “either [by] funneling those funds to different organizations or just losing them completely.” For example, in November 2017, an individual sent Love Saxa a check for $50, which the club’s president, Amelia Irvine, promptly deposited with Georgetown officials. But Love Saxa never received the funds, and the donor received a receipt from Georgetown showing that his donation had been credited to the LGBTQ Resource Center Reserve.

The following month, another donor contributed $100 to Love Saxa through a university phonathon. The receipt he received, however, showed that Georgetown directed his donation to the Saxatones, a musical group that partners with another LGBT advocacy organization, the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League of Washington, D.C. That same month, Irvine deposited another donor’s $250 check into Love Saxa’s account, but those funds didn’t show up either. The similarity of the names Love Saxa and Saxatones might have caused an innocent confusion about one check, but not the other two.

“Universities should encourage students to participate in the free marketplace of ideas, not favor some while financially exploiting others,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “We call upon Georgetown to investigate this breach of Love Saxa’s checking account and its donors’ trust, restore all funds that are unaccounted for, and hold all individuals involved responsible. If Georgetown or anyone at Georgetown has retaliated against Love Saxa by hijacking its donations and giving them to groups that oppose its mission and identity, then no student, alumnus, or donor can trust the university’s integrity.”

Georgetown restored the missing funds to Love Saxa three weeks ago but has shown no interest in finding out who misappropriated them or why. It did put out a bland and uninformative letter saying that last fall Love Saxa was a new group with “no valid path” for it to receive funds. But that doesn’t explain how the donations got to gay groups.

This University Is Going to Pay Big Money for Ignoring a Student’s Rights

James Madison University, a public university in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, is probably not a school you would think of as one where rampaging ideology against male students would lead to a huge legal fight. But that’s what happened a few years ago. Now, a student who was wrongfully punished is on the verge of collecting almost $850,000 from the university.

The case is like many others ­— a “hookup” between college students that ended in anger, with the woman using the Obama-era sexual assault rules for revenge. The man (“John Doe”) met the woman (“Jane Roe”) in August 2014 when both were incoming students at JMU. They had sex one night and exchanged friendly communications for days. The two “hung out” together and had sex again the following week.

One evening thereafter, Roe went to Doe’s room carrying her pillow and blanket but was shocked to find another woman sitting on Doe’s bed. She left in a huff and a few days later filed charges against Doe for sexual misconduct. She claimed that at the time of their first encounter, she had been too intoxicated to consent to sex. Their hookup, therefore, amounted to rape. She wanted Doe punished.

In December, a JMU disciplinary panel heard the arguments, considered the evidence, and decided that Doe was not responsible for any wrongdoing.

That ought to have been the end of the matter, but Ms. Roe was not happy about the outcome, so she asked for another hearing. Rather than saying, “No, the case is closed,” JMU decided to put Doe through what would amount to illegal double jeopardy if this were a case before our criminal courts. It convened another panel, consisting of three professors who listened to new evidence Roe claimed was pertinent, while not permitting Doe to contest any of it.

Despite an abundance of evidence from the first hearing that Roe had not been intoxicated that first night, the second panel decided, in accordance with the Obama-era mantra of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), that “the accuser should be believed.” It summarily declared that Doe had violated JMU’s policy against sexual assault and ordered that he be suspended from the university for five years. He could then reapply, but only if he had undergone an “education/counseling program.”

Doe was not allowed to contest that decision.

Bear in mind that from 2011 to the end of the Obama administration, the OCR was putting heavy pressure on colleges to implement procedures meant to maximize the number of successful complaints of sexual harassment and assault. They were expected to use pro-accuser policies (such as not allowing the accused to challenge evidence and to employ the lowest possible standard of proof of guilt). This case gave JMU an opportunity to shine. Its punishment of Doe was just what the overlords in Washington, D.C. wanted to see.

What the university did not count on was a vigorous counter-attack by the maligned Mr. Doe, who was out of school and bore the stigma of a rapist.

He filed suit against JMU, arguing that it had failed to live up to its self-declared obligation to provide all students with fair and equitable procedures when accused of violating school regulations.

The case was heard by federal judge Elizabeth Dillon, who ruled in 2016 that the university had violated Doe’s rights.

Judge Dillon focused on the second stage of the disciplinary process, writing “There JMU subjected him to a second fact-finding trial but severely limited his ability to defend himself. Specifically, she found:

  • It did not give him sufficient notice of, or time to respond to, Roe’s new evidence.
  • It did not provide him with details about the unnamed girl whom Roe’s suitemate accused him of sexually assaulting—an accusation not raised before the hearing board but presented to the appeal board.
  • It did not allow him to contact Roe’s roommate, whom Roe and her suitemate accused of lying before the hearing panel.
  • It did not tell him the names of the appeal board’s members.
  • It did not give him prior notice of the appeal board’s meeting.
  • It did not permit him to attend the appeal board’s meeting.

Conversely, JMU bent over backward to accommodate Roe, such as granting her time extensions for submitting new evidence. Judge Dillon, therefore, refused to dismiss the procedural due process case against JMU in December of 2016, and the following April followed up with an order that Doe be reinstated, and his record as a sexual predator be expunged.

But that left the matter of legal costs unresolved. Judge Dillon turned that over to U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Hoppe who ruled on January 31, 2018, that JMU must pay over $849,000 in legal expenses Doe incurred.

Writing about the battle over costs in this piece, Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky and Sarah Williams state, “The same intransigence and refusal to recognize its wrongdoing that was evident in the original case has been present in the court fight over these legal costs. JMU rejected numerous attempts to settle the case despite its plain and obvious mishandling of the sexual-assault claim. Judge Hoppe points out that while JMU claimed Doe’s request was too high because Doe’s attorneys ‘overstaffed the case, were inefficient, and duplicated each other’s work,’ JMU did ‘not offer any specific support for this position.’”

There are two reasons why this case matters.

First, it shows that American courts still recognize that due process of law for every accused person is vitally important – even male college students accused of sexual assault.

Second, it provides a warning to those colleges and universities that have decided to stick with the Obama-era procedures that Judge Dillon (and many other legal scholars) are likely to overturn ad hoc university decisions in favor of the U.S. Constitution. Following Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ announcement that she was rescinding the OCR “guidance” that led colleges to abandon due process when it came to male students accused of sexual assault, a number of institutions declared, apparently out of a feeling of righteous resistance to Trump, that they would continue to abide by the old policies.

In this article by Ashe Schow, we read that Yale stated that it has “no plans to deviate from the Obama-era policies after alumni urged campus administrators to resist changes.” Similarly, Cal State-Northridge said that it would “not waver in our commitment to Title IX and its protections.”

Rhetoric like that sounds wonderful in “progressive” ears but being unfair to accused men does nothing to protect women on campus. What those policies accomplish is to encourage the abuse of disciplinary processes by students who want revenge against others who have scorned or angered them.

In a way, we should applaud any college that asserts its independence from Washington. The Department of Education shouldn’t dictate policies to them, on the handling of sexual assault cases or anything else. But schools that feel the need to keep using procedures that are stacked in favor of accusers should think about the possible costs of doing so. The bad publicity and high financial cost to James Madison University are, as educators like to say, a teachable moment.

Exclusive: New Harvard Prez Nearly Won “Sheldon” Award

We note that Lawrence Bacow has been named the president of Harvard, succeeding Drew Gilpin Faust, who held the office for 11 years.

Mysteriously missing from the news coverage was the fact that Bacow was a 2007 finalist for the “Sheldon,” our coveted award for worst college president of the year. The award is a statuette that looks something like the Oscar, except the Oscar features a man with no face looking straight ahead, whereas the Sheldon shows a man with no spine looking the other way.

The award is named for the late Sheldon Hackney, the former president of the University of Pennsylvania and the Babe Ruth of modern Sheldonism.

As president of Tufts University, Lawrence Bacow looked the other way when a student-faculty committee put a conservative Tufts publication on trial and found it guilty for publishing two parodies. One was a mock Christmas carol making fun of affirmative action and the other was a satire of Tuft’s Islamic Awareness Week.

The committee accused the journal of causing “embarrassment, which we had thought was the entire purpose of satire. The committee ordered the publication not to run any unsigned articles in the future, a rule not applied to other campus publications. The committee also hinted that funding would be cut if other controversial articles were published.

The spineless Sheldon award. (Photo-Wikipedia)

FIRE wrote Tufts University President Lawrence Bacow to ask why a verdict declaring The Primary Source (TPSguilty of “harassment” and “creating a hostile environment” still stands―despite the fact that Bacow himself has openly admitted that such a punishment could not stand under the First Amendment.

“We explained to President Bacow (again) that the only way for Tufts University to shed the dishonor of being one of three schools named to FIRE’s Red Alert list―reserved for schools FIRE deems ‘the worst of the worst’ when it comes to protecting rights on campus―was by immediately dropping the guilty finding against TPS. As we wrote:

“As long as the harassment finding against The Primary Source remains, students at Tufts are in danger of being censored and sanctioned merely for expressing unpopular opinions on campus.”

Eventually, Bacow acknowledged freedom of speech by eliminating punishment for the student journalists and praised free expression but refused to overrule the guilty verdict, leading the Sheldon committee to conclude that Bacow’s commitment to free speech ‘’shuttles between tepid and imaginary.”.

A mutual friend invited Bacow and me to lunch, where Bacow once again reiterated his innocent but guilty position, a stance opposed by the ACLU of Massachusetts, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and several newspapers. It was, however, the only time a Sheldon candidate argued his case before the whole Sheldon committee (me).

Bacow lost the worst-president title that year to a superlative effort by Richard Brodhead, president of Duke.

Here is what Brodhead did to win: On hearing the first reports, he abruptly canceled the lacrosse season, suspended the players named in the case, and fired the lacrosse coach of 16 years, giving him less than a day to get out. All with no hearings.

This helped create the impression that the players were guilty. His long letter to the campus did the same thing. He didn’t say the boys were guilty, but he talked passionately about the coercion and assault of women, the legacy of racism, and privilege and inequality – all of which fed the anger aimed at the lacrosse team.

Brodhead did nothing to deter the tsunami whipped up against the players by some students and the Group of 88, an alliance of mostly radical race and gender professors. One of the 88, Houston Baker, answered a polite and worried letter from one of the lacrosse moms by calling her “the mother of a farm animal.” Again with no comment from Brodhead.

Without any comment from Brodhead, the protesters issued death threats, carried banners that said “castrate,” featured photos of lacrosse players on “Wanted” fliers, and banged pots outside the boys’ residences in the early morning hours to disturb their sleep. A word from the president about leaving the boys alone and guaranteeing them a fair trial would have been nice. An engineering professor at Duke said, “There never was a clear sense that the students were innocent until proven guilty.” The whole “scandal,”was, of course, a scam.

Despite their perpetrations, Brodhead won a glittering contract, and Bacow is president of Harvard.

Koch Money Is No Good, Even for Left-Approved Causes

John Jay College for Criminal Justice in New York says it will not solicit donations from the Koch brothers and their affiliated groups because of campus opposition from the left, according to a report last Saturday in the New York Post.

The John Jay protest against the Koch brothers “is ironic, since their organizations have supported the argument that the US is engaged in ‘mass incarceration’ and that policing is too aggressive,” said Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. But a long campaign against billionaires Charles and David Koch by journalist Jane Mayer and the New Yorker magazine has convinced much of the left that the brothers are a unique threat to American democracy and that liberals should not cooperate with them, even when the Kochs and the left agree on issues such as over-incarceration and decriminalization.

A John Jay spokeswoman declined to give an accounting of the Koch money that has come in during the last five years but a pamphlet thanking the college’s 2016 donors included the Charles Koch Foundation, listed as giving between $50,000 and $100,000, and the nonprofit Charles Koch Institute, which contributed between $10,000 and $25,000.

And at least one John Jay professor has received a Koch-funded research grant. Psychology professor Deryn Strange got $49,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation for a study involving police body cameras. President Mason said she would not stand in in the way of individual faculty members seeking Koch grants.

John Jay sponsored a recent and controversial art show by former prisoners at Guantanamo, and a teacher at the school was quoted anonymously as saying he thinks having more dead cops is a good idea.

A New Campus Ailment–White Civility

Already suffering from white privilege and white fragility, some of America’s 260 million white people picked up The Wall St. Journal yesterday and discovered they were suffering from yet another unsuspected ailment—civility. As explained in a Journal op-ed by journalism professor Steve Salerno, “whiteness informed civility” gives whites the impression that they can conduct conversations with black people without confessing that whites are agents of oppression and patriarchal power.

As Salerno tells it, “whiteness informed civility” is affecting college debates, leading some debaters to challenge the rules and format of debates and even to change the topics of debates to talk about race instead of the agreed-upon subject. Salerno says a few of the debates result in profane outbursts and thrown furniture.

How Identity Politics Boosts College Conservatives

One might call it an occupational hazard. A teacher hears someone say something critical about students in general and has an immediate response: “Not MY students.” It shows a particular form of identification. The teacher assumes the role of defender of the youths as if being their teacher entails being their advocate. It’s also a brand of parochialism, this assumption that one teacher’s students are more or less representative of larger populations of students. The teacher has contact only with a small number of kids but doesn’t realize how partial his exposure really is.

This is what happened awhile back in the Chronicle of Higher Education. It started with a long opinion piece by Professor Mark Lilla, “How Colleges Are Strangling Liberalism.” The subtitle makes clear Lilla’s contention: “An obsession with identity has made students less likely to engage with a world beyond themselves.” Lilla terms himself a “centrist liberal.” He regards the election of Donald Trump as a disaster. But, as he argued in his widely-circulated New York Times op-ed a few days after the tally came in, left-wing identity politics have dealt conservatives a winning hand. The way to win political office is “to have a message that appeals to as many people as possible and pulls them together,” he said in the Chronicle. “Identity liberalism does just the opposite.”

Lilla turns to the campus as the place where identity politics have distorted real politics into a self-oriented search for meaning. He quotes the 1971 manifesto of the Combahee River Collective: “the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity.” Instead of receiving lessons in the wider world, from history and religions and philosophy and the arts, a new student on campus interested in contemporary politics is “encouraged to plumb mainly herself.”

The teachers and curriculum turn her inward, blurring the distinction between self-exploration and political activity, to the detriment of the latter. We end up with a degraded intellectual climate where arguments give way to taboos, critique to indignation. Worst of all, Lilla says, the students who might be politically interested and come to learn about the world end up not caring about anything but their own identity condition. Or rather, they see the world through the condition and overlook everything else.

Professor Martha S. Jones, a historian now at Johns Hopkins but last year at the University of Michigan, doesn’t believe a word of what Lilla writes. She refuted his piece in the same venue, the Chronicle of Higher Education, in an essay, “What Mark Lilla Gets Wrong About Students.” Her statement is a perfect example of the defensive parochialism described above.

Jones doesn’t contest Lilla’s characterization of identity liberalism, nor does she deny that identity politics cost Hillary Clinton the presidency. Instead, she denies that students have become so absorbed in their identities that they have retreated from the real world and the real politics that shape it.

And how does she know that? Because her students aren’t like that at all. She has 20 years of experience, she says, and her classroom is not a “cloistered refuge.” It is a “real world place.”

Her students, whom she calls “my best evidence,” are not pseudo-political narcissists. No, they are “young thinkers living out our shared ideals.” That’s the conclusion she has confidently drawn from her “vantage point,” which looks out to the student population and sees “democracy’s newest agents.”

Let’s pause at this vantage point.  How many students does it include?  Jones states that she had 30 of them in Fall 2016 when Donald Trump triumphed.  This was at the University of Michigan, which has tens of thousands of undergraduates who weren’t in her classroom that day.  And who were they?  Well, they were the students who gravitate toward Rose’s area of interest, African American history and critical race theory.  Can’t be too many libertarians or conservative youths in that class.  Indeed, given the dismay with which Rose complacently recalls November 9, 2016, we can be confident that non-left-leaning kids have known for years to avoid her.

What we have, then, is not a demonstration of what Lilla “gets wrong about students.”  Instead, we have a leftist professor sentimentalizing a handful of students into change-agents and turning them into a national symbol.

The irony of this is that Jones is unaware that her entire approach follows the identity liberalism Lilla expounds.  Instead of drawing evidence from large-scale studies such as the American Freshman Survey and the National Survey of Student Engagement, which poll tens of thousands of college students every year, Jones sticks to her own experience, her “vantage point,” which is, in fact, a constricted one.  Instead of citing concrete political activities by her students, she resorts to feel-good clichés such as “a shared concern about our future,” “who are taking our future in their hands,” “they are speaking for all of us,” etc.

She does cite efforts by two students, but they only prove Lilla’s case.  “Lakyrra” skipped class to speak at a rally in protest against racist messages written anonymously around campus.  How that counts as political activity that transcends identity matters isn’t explained.  “Tony,” on the other hand, wrote an op-ed in Merion West, a small Web magazine that is admirably diverse in political commentary.  But his title undercuts the claim of broad-mindedness that Rose makes for him: “Confederate Memorials Endorse Treason and Racism.”  He accepts Confederate flags on private property but insists that public property must remove all markers of the Confederate cause because they endorse those two vices.  The Confederate flag itself “supports treason.”

Needless to say, this is a simplistic conception of historical markers.  A statue of Robert E. Lee is for a few people a glorification of the Confederacy, yes, but for most, it is a recognition of Lee’s military valor and his post-War conduct (which did the opposite of glorifying the rebellion).

But apart from that, it is hard to see how a statement about a current racial controversy demonstrates that Lilla is wrong.  It is still the result of what Lilla calls “an identity-based education.”  Herein lies Rose’s difficulty.  She thinks an identity-based education is a good education.  But that’s only because of her parochialism.  She substantiated Lilla’s case the moment she cast her own small, hothouse classroom experience as the general truth.

The Decline of the Humanities and Who’s to Blame

This year is the 30th Anniversary of the publication of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind. That book made Bloom and anyone who liked it unambiguous enemies of the humanities.

Bill Bennett, Dinesh D’Souza, Lynn Cheney, the founders of the National Association of Scholars and the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics, Roger Kimball and Hilton Kramer (in their annual report on the MLA Convention in The New Criterion), John Silber, David Horowitz and Peter Collier (in their updates on the academy in Heterodoxy), the relatively few distinguished academics such as John Ellis at UC-Santa Cruz who spoke up against identity politics were cast as bigoted and reactionary.

They were judged too stupid and uninformed to appreciate the extraordinary developments in the humanities, exciting formations such as French feminism and sexuality studies. If the conservatives and traditionalists predicted a dark future of the humanities, well, that was just because they didn’t have the acuity to understand how rich and cutting-edge theory and cultural studies had become.

It is important to keep this perpetual wave of discreditation in mind as the empirical evidence of decline rushes in. Last week, we reported on the steep drop in history jobs. Now, we have a preliminary report from the Modern Language Association that shows a discouraging plummet in regular jobs in English and foreign languages. If you look at the charts in this post by David Laurence, the MLA’s leading researcher, you can see how bad the decline really is. For instance:

  • Jobs in English are down 10.7 percent from last year.
  • Jobs in foreign languages are down 12 percent from last year.
  • English had 851 jobs listed last year, which is lower than any year on the chart (which goes back to 1975-76).
  • Foreign languages came in at 808, which is also lower than any other year listed.
  • Both areas are well below the numbers for jobs in the year after the recession hit, 22 percent fewer in English and 21 percent fewer in foreign languages.

Those of us in the humanities who are conservative regret this decline, but we saw it coming. We were certain that identity politics, which thoroughly took over the humanities in the 80s and 90s, would appeal to a shrinking cohort of American undergraduates. Respect from across the campus would go down, and so would course enrollments.

Graduate applications would remain steady because the smaller number of students who loved identity politics in classrooms wanted to stay in the field. To many of them, the commitment was personal. But graduate interest doesn’t sustain the departments, not on campuses where resources are limited and other departments compete for lines and salaries and office space. You need support from the base.

But our warnings were met with sarcastic replies such as this one, the author of which accused us of trying to “sell a crisis.” And this one, which called us “Factually, stubbornly, determinedly wrong.”

I haven’t seen any of the people who mocked conservatives and traditionalists for their sky-is-falling rhetoric say in response to the catastrophes of the last few years that they were wrong. They can’t. When you dispute an opponent over the facts, but stick to those facts and hold off on raillery, you can change your mind and make admissions. But when you desire not only to prove your adversary wrong but to discredit him, you can’t go back.

That would mean accrediting him, and humanities professors dislike conservatives too much to do that. The field rightly stays in their hands and nobody else’s. If it’s going down and down, that can’t be because they made the wrong choices and invested in the wrong things.

Instead of acknowledging their mismanagement, they say things such as this commentary in Salon that accepts the decline of the humanities but blames it on a “war on the liberal arts” prosecuted by, yes, conservatives. (It’s by an undergraduate who, no doubt, got lots of faculty coaching.)

The only rejoinder to such statements is this: “The university at large and the humanities, in particular, have been in the hands of liberals and leftists for many, many years. The ratio of conservative professors to liberal professors has dropped significantly in the last twenty years. The profession belongs to the center-left and the left. The outcomes are your responsibility.”

History: A Troubled Field Likely to Get Worse

Here’s a sign of the times: the head of the American Historical Association says departments should integrate communication, collaboration, and three other “basic skills” into their programs. In other words. Jobs in history are dwindling, so graduate students in the field had better prepare some backup plans.

I heard the same thing in literary studies several years ago when the job market tanked after the financial crisis.  Back then, though, graduate students resented the advice.  They went into the programs because they wanted an academic job.  They sat in undergraduate classes, looked up at the professor at the podium, and thought, “I want to do that.” They idealized the life of the mind, imagined themselves writing books and essays, delivering lectures to colleagues at conferences, and spending summers in archives in Paris and Bologna and Mexico City.  To be told that they should consider something else, a curator or archivist or writer for a not-for-profit strikes most of them as a letdown.

It’s not that they regard those other jobs as unimportant.  It’s just that they don’t follow the academic schedule.  You must show up five days a week and log regular hours.  You can’t travel during the summer.  You can’t stay home on non-teaching days and read books.

You don’t set your own agenda, either.  You must report to a boss.   All an academic must do is produce respectable publications and teach moderately well, and then you’ve got security and freedom.

If you work in an office, moreover, you don’t have students looking to you for guidance and wisdom and grades.   However, much humanities professors feel disrespected by the larger culture and the administration, each semester they have a group of youths, more or less, under their control.

Yes, there is a still a romance that attaches to the academic life.  It’s nice work, if you can get it.  I enter my office each day and feel wholly grateful to have my job at Emory–and lucky, too.  I can’t tell graduate students in their 4th and 5th year to think about going somewhere else.  I’d be embarrassed to do so.

If the professional associations wish to help graduate students, alternative careers are not the first solution.  Instead, they must produce the condition that will create more jobs in the annual listings, namely, undergraduate demand.  The reason administrators don’t approve more lines for humanities departments is that enrollments don’t warrant it.  When the numbers go down, so do jobs.  If a dean sees that history courses are only half-filled, requests for new lines are met with a chuckle.  But if he has lots of undergraduates on his hands who can’t get into the courses they want, then new lines will follow.

This requires, however, a concerted effort on the part of history professors to make their courses more appealing to a broader range of undergraduates.  Intersectionality won’t do it, nor will courses on the various crimes and sins of the past, the racism, sexism, homophobia, nationalism, and imperialism of the Western nations.  Some students will enjoy listening to history professors recount the exploitations Western nations have wrought upon people of color.  Some students will like hearing American chided for failing its ideals.  But not enough of them to sustain the fields.  Most students who, in high school, liked reading about Civil War battles and got a kick out of tales of European royalty won’t be drawn to social history, that is, representations of people “at the bottom.” It’s a downer to them, with too much resentment mixed in with the learning.

This is the truth that so many tenured humanities professors don’t wish to admit.  American students aren’t interested in what they have to say.  The professors may attribute that reaction to careerism, complacency, “whiteness,” and ideology, but the fact remains that the undergraduates are voting with their feet.  The undergraduates are the ones on whom the health of the discipline, including the job market, rests.  Until the humanities start asking themselves seriously how they can rebuild enrollments at the low end, the situation of too many PhDs for too few opening is only going to get worse.

Campus Left: ‘Not OK to Be White’

“It’s OK to Be White” signs have been popping up on campuses apparently to show that any similar slogan ending in a reference to any other racial, ethnic or gender group would be welcomed by college students, but not one ending in “White.” Sure enough, the “White” signs have been pulled down rapidly, apparently by the campus left, with some students saying the motto is a clear attack on diversity or a hateful expression of “white supremacy. “

Since Halloween, the signs have turned up at Princeton, the University of Iowa, Tulane, Harvard, the University of Maryland, Purdue, Concordia College in Minnesota and the University of Alberta and the University of Toronto in Canada.

More than a dozen handmade stickers reading “It’s Okay to Be White” surfaced around Harvard Square last Wednesday, prompting Cambridge officials to remove them and the Dean of Harvard Law School, Marcia L. Sells, to denounce the signs as “provocations intended to divide us.”

The Harvard Crimson reported that the stickers appeared to be part of a campaign started on the controversial forum website 4chan, which called upon followers to put up posters with the message in their area on Halloween night. The author of the original post on the site wrote that they hoped the “credibility of far-left campuses and media get nuked” as a result of the incident, adding that they could help achieve a “massive victory for the right in the culture war.”

Some campuses worked hard to spin the news as they reported it. The University of Kansas student newspaper ran the news of the signs as “white supremacy posters found around campus.”

John Hinderaker, writing at Power Line, reported that “A group of students at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, did something so outrageous, so transgressive, that it has roiled the campus and led to newspaper headlines: they posted signs on campus that say, “It’s OK to be white.”

You might think that in a campus environment where a thousand genders are blooming, you could finish a sentence beginning “It’s OK to be…” in just about any possible manner. But you would be wrong.

Concordia students said the whole “plan” goes against the diversity message at the school.

Leftists divined that those who put up the signs are not entirely on board with the bullying zeitgeist of 21st-century education:

Senior Micah Ferden said, “(I) was really shocked that someone had the guts to do this because we try to promote diversity so much, and seeing this is saying ‘Hey, we still have students who aren’t fully invested in this diversity message.’”

A naive observer might have thought the message of the signs was anodyne. Moorhead, Minnesota, where Concordia is located, is 90.4% white, according to Wikipedia. So, a naïve observer might assume, it had better be OK to be white. But some thoughts must not be spoken. Concordia’s President has announced an “open forum” to discuss the radical sign.

Unsurprisingly, the campus left was generally prone to seeing the posters as out of bounds and illegitimate, though whites, particularly white males, have been the unofficial punching bags as oppressors in movements against “white privilege and “white fragility,” With campus leftists in recent weeks instructing whites to move to the back of lecture halls.

A Medal Not All Are Eligible for

LL Cool J was one of eight winners this year of the Hutchins Center’s W.E.B. Dubois Medal, Harvard University’s highest honor in the field of African and African America studies. It is awarded to individuals “in recognition of their contribution to African American culture and the life of the mind.”

We notice that many expected names are missing from the list of 165 winners since the medal was first bestowed in 2000. Thomas Sowell, a clear overachiever and perhaps the best-known African American scholar, has never won. Neither have noted black scholars Shelby Steele, Walter Williams or John McWhorter. Former Attorney General Eric Holder won a DuBois medal, but not Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell, both former secretaries of state. Talking head Donna Brazile won, but not talking head Michael Steele. Oprah won, as has Harry Belafonte, but not James Earl Jones. Harvey Weinstein won in 2014, presumably for his fund-raising skill, rather than for his contributions to the life of the mind, but that award was rescinded this year.

What can explain all those omissions? Our current theory is that the medal goes only to the left and that most moderates and all conservatives just don’t qualify as contributors to black culture. LL Cool J supported President Obama, but he also backed NY Republican Governor George Pataki for a third term.  “Nobody should assume that I’m a Democrat either. I’m an Independent, you know,” he said. Clear enough, but one more rightward lurch and he may have to be rescinded.

Brooklyn College Stifles Pro-Israel Voices

A few weeks ago, the David Horowitz Freedom Center caused a stir at Brooklyn College by placing posters on campus labeling two of the college’s professors “terrorist supporters.” The college’s president, Michelle Anderson, issued a statement condemning the posters as “targeted intimidation” designed to “defame and silence specific individuals,” claiming those targeted were “at risk for further harassment and abuse.” She further noted that “robust discourse” on public policy issues is central to the college’s mission and, thus, that those in the college community have a right to express opinions in an atmosphere “free from hate.

Related: How Soft Censorship Works at College

But the charge leveled by the Freedom Center is arguably true. In 2014, both of the accused professors, Samir Chopra and Corey Robin, were arrested outside the Israeli mission in New York for protesting the Israeli bombing of Gaza. The Israeli bombing at issue was the culmination of a series of events: Hamas members kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. During its operation to find the teens, Israel arrested a number of Hamas leaders. Hamas retaliated by launching 80 rockets from Gaza into Israel, and that prompted Israel to launch a major military operation into Gaza. The two professors were arrested protesting this operation.

By demonstrating against the Israeli bombing of Gaza, but not the rocket attacks against Israel that prompted that bombing, Professors Robin and Chopra clearly sided with the Hamas-led government in Gaza. Hamas has long been designated as a terrorist organization by both the European Union and the United States. Thus, a reasonable person could conclude that by publicly siding with Hamas, the two professors are indeed supporting terrorists.

Because the Freedom Center’s accusation against the two professors is arguably true, it is not “defamatory,” as President Anderson alleges. Indeed, labeling those who support the Hamas-led government as terrorists could catalyze useful discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Among the questions to be debated are: do rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel constitute terrorism, and at what point does Israel’s defense against these attacks become disproportionate and therefore unjustified?

Thus, the Freedom Center’s posters – provocative as they were – were not defamatory, and they might promote healthy debate. As such, they fall well within the realm of constitutionally protected speech

Related: How Colleges Promote Censorship and Undermine Free Speech

Further, President Anderson’s use of the term “hate” to describe the posters stifles the “robust discourse” she claims as central to the college’s mission. Opposing the strongly held view of the head of a college isn’t easy under any circumstance, but it would be especially risky in this case. Why would a student or faculty member even bother to seriously examine a college-condemned viewpoint if coming to accept its validity might get you shunned as a “hater.” Simply put, President Anderson’s argument is a rhetorical ruse designed to chill speech with which she disagrees.

Unfortunately, this incident is not an aberration: Brooklyn College has a history of suppressing the voices of Israel’s supporters. In 2013, Brooklyn College security officers removed four pro-Israel students from a campus forum featuring opponents of Israel, claiming later to the press that “official reports” had indicated that the students were disruptive. In fact, a subsequent independent investigation proved (based on audio tapes) that there was no disruption and, thus, no justification for removing the students. The so-called official report of that disruption was based on a false account of the incident given by a college vice president. That the college apologized to the students – over a year after the event – is small compensation for stifling their voices and defaming them to the press.

Jerry Brown Vetoes Unfair State Bill on Campus Sexual Misconduct Rules

A pleasant surprise: Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed the California bill designed to protect the unfair procedures of the Obama Education Department’s guidance on how to deal with sexual misconduct on campus. His decision was explicitly based on due-process grounds. The Obama-era policies discouraged cross-examination, suggested that accusers (but not the accused) be allowed to appeal decisions and lowered the burden of proof of misconduct to “a preponderance of evidence” — slightly over 50% or 50.0001% likelihood of guilt.

Brown wrote in a statement:

“Thoughtful legal minds have increasingly questioned whether federal and state actions to prevent and redress sexual harassment and assault—well-intentioned as they are—have also unintentionally resulted in some colleges’ failure to uphold due process for accused students. Depriving any student of higher education opportunities should not be done lightly, or out of fear of losing state or federal funding.”

Betsy DeVos, the new secretary of education, is revising the Obama guidance, which was never subject to public notice and comment as new rules are required to be. The Obama education department argued that the new rule was a clarification of existing rules, though many of the recommendations were clearly new.

The Diversity Takeover of Science and Tech Has Begun

The director of UCLA’s Women in Engineering program trotted out the usual role model argument for gender-and race-conscious decision-making. Audrey Pool O’Neal told the Daily Bruin that she never saw anyone who looked like her (black and female) when she was an undergraduate and graduate student. “When I do teach classes, the female students let me know how much they appreciate seeing a woman in front of their classroom,” O’Neal said.

Why not appreciate seeing the best-trained scholar in front of your classroom? Any female who thinks that she needs a female in front of her in order to learn as much as she can, or to envision a career in a particular field, has declared herself a follower rather than a pioneer—and a follower based on a characteristic irrelevant to intellectual achievement…. Marie Curie did not need female role models to investigate radioactivity; she was motivated by a passion for understanding the world. That should be reason enough to plunge headlong into the search for knowledge. — From “Standing on the Shoulders of Diversocrats” in City Journal.

Contrarian Librarian vs. Dr. Seuss

News item:  Massachusetts Elementary School Librarian rejects First Lady’s gift of Dr. Seuss books, calling them “racist propaganda.”


The things that you learn when you go back to school
Some of them hard, but a lot of them cool
Like ways you can measure the height of a tree
And who first established the land of the free

And how many elements go into steel
And why breakfast is our most meaningful meal
And what you should never put into a freezer
And who wrote the powerful play Julius Caesar

Plus, alas, a new subject that won’t tax your brain
Because it’s so totally numb and inane
The good Doctor Seuss has now given offense
To a school librarian shorn of all sense

She finds that his works, which enthralled generations
Are filled with the very worst kind of sensations
They’re not about Grinches or Hortons or Whos,
They’re not about Elephants, Tigers or Zoos

They’re not about Loraxes, Yertles or Hats
They’re not about Green Eggs or Zebras or Cats
No, they’re chock full of racism, bias and worse
If only you know how to decode his verse

Theodore Geisel was the name of the Doc
In life he was found in the liberal bloc
But that was back then, when his books were adored
Not now when those works are reviled and abhorred

Of course, it just might be the source of the rift
Is the First Lady’s try at a whimsical gift
What better way is there to get back at Trump?
So what if some kid lit winds up in the dump,

Along with a poet enjoyed to the max
Whose rhyming will soon be expunged from the stacks
Replaced by some paranoid partisan chatter?
And what of the students? Since when do they matter?

A Challenge to Harvard’s Social Club Crackdown

Harvard’s new policy on social clubs, penalizing student members of single-sex clubs, has run into faculty opposition. Under the policy, students in the class of 2021 and beyond cannot simultaneously be a member of a single-sex final club or Greek organization and hold club leadership positions or athletic team captaincies, or be recommended for Rhodes Scholarships or certain postgraduate fellowships. The statement and motion below by Harry R. Lewis, former Dean of Harvard College and an opponent of the new policy, was delivered October 3 at a meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The motion will be put to a vote on November 7.  –Editor

I move: Harvard College shall not discipline, penalize, or otherwise sanction students for joining, or affiliating with, any lawful organization, political party, or social, political, or other affinity group.

This is a simple motion. It says Harvard College can’t punish students for joining a club. It does NOT say that students who belong to clubs can’t be punished for bad things they do. It does NOT take away any tool that has been used in the past to discipline students for their behavior. It would, however, block several social club policies that have been proposed over the past year and a half.

I cannot find a single case prior to May 2016 when Harvard said it would punish a student for joining any organization — a club or anything else. To the contrary, when Harvard barred ROTC from campus, we explicitly rejected the idea of punishing ROTC students for joining a discriminatory organization. And in the 1950s, when Senator McCarthy called on Harvard to fire Wendell Furry of the Physics Department for being a member of the Communist Party, President Pusey refused to do so, on principle, in spite of enormous political pressure and his own anti-Communist sentiments. Harvard today holds the moral high ground. We would give it up if we were to adopt any policy that would punish students for joining a club.

Some who are concerned about my motion have asked me, “but what if a student joins X”—and then names some particularly odious national organization. Well, we have survived a long time without any rules against joining hated organizations. This is not the time to institute such a rule in order to crush some off-campus sorority.

Students should not give up their rights to assemble peaceably off campus when they enroll here any more than they give up their rights to read, write, and say what they wish. Indeed, by becoming students, they do not give up their rights to have private lives. All these freedoms are fundamental to our educational mission.

I beg you; this is not a trivial matter. Students engaged in unlawful or violent behavior should pay the price for what they do. But nobody should be punished just for joining a club. Not us, and not our students. Thank you.

Students Push Georgetown Toward Ideological Diversity

The editorial board of the Georgetown student paper is pushing the university to adopt ideological diversity by acquiring a few conservative teachers. In September, the board of The Hoya ran this statement in their September editorial:

“One of the hallmarks of higher education is the opportunity to understand and grapple with a wide range of ideas. Yet, Georgetown falls short on its commitment to this ideological diversity in the makeup of its instructional corps. The university must work to remedy its lack of politically conservative professors by considering a diversity of viewpoints when hiring instructors, from assistant professors to those with tenure, and by ensuring that no bias exists against conservative educators in the hiring process.”

The editorial referred to a March 2016 op-ed in The Wall St. Journal by John Hasnas — a professor at the McDonough School of Business at the Georgetown University Law Center. It said faculty search committees were never instructed to increase political or ideological diversity but were in fact often told the opposite. Hasnas described episodes in which a job description was altered to mitigate the number of conservative applicants and candidates were removed from consideration due to their affiliations with libertarian or conservative institutions.

The Student editorial said, “A robust exchange of ideas requires students and faculty to have the greatest possible variety of backgrounds, to expose ourselves to myriad viewpoints. Only by having our views challenged can we refine our own stances, learn how best to justify our arguments and hone our critical thinking abilities.”

Stanford’s Many Dubious Sexual Assault Claims

While Yale is the only institution required by the Federal government to outline its campus sexual assault adjudications, (albeit in an increasingly limited way), a second university — Stanford — has now started to do so. As with Yale, these reports unintentionally reveal the moral panic over sexual assault on many of the nation’s leading campuses.

The current Stanford report appeared over the pen of Stanford University spokesperson Kathleen Sullivan. It contends that Stanford is an extremely dangerous campus (about at the level of danger as Yale)—with 30 rapes listed in the 2016-2017 academic year. For comparison’s sake, this means that the Stanford campus had more rapes in one academic year as did the city of Palo Alto in the last four years combined. Stanford isn’t an island: if these figures were anywhere near accurate, it would mean the Stanford campus should be the Palo Alto Police Department’s number one priority.

Sullivan’s report later suggests, however, that passing outside of the campus walls might yield a different understanding of rape. Five of Stanford’s cases were reported to police. According to the report, “No charges and/or convictions resulted from those five investigations.” (The wording is odd here: did each of these cases not even rise to the level of probable cause necessary for prosecutors to bring a charge? Or did some yield not-guilty verdicts at trial? Sullivan doesn’t say.) Regardless, the zero-for-five ratio shows the difference between a campus system that too often presumes guilt and a criminal justice system that provides the defendant with protections of due process.

Beyond these five cases, fourteen others featured no adjudication at all. In ten cases, the accuser wouldn’t or couldn’t identify the alleged perpetrator; in four other cases, Stanford handled matters informally, at the request of the accuser. That is: in 14 of the 30 rape allegations, the sole issue was accommodations for the accuser, not adjudication.

That left 11 rape allegations that Stanford investigated. Six of these didn’t go to a hearing. Two or three of the accused students pled guilty (and were either expelled or received long suspensions). But at least a few of these allegations resulted in a formal decision not to charge, and other cases where the resolution suggested no admission of guilt (education or no-contact orders). Five cases, meanwhile, went to hearings; three yielded guilty findings, two not-guilty.

So, of the 30 rape allegations at Stanford in 2016-7, none of those reported to police yielded guilty findings, and only five or six guilty findings came in a university system that’s less unfair than it once was but still is no paragon of due process. Yet even though at least 80 percent of the rape allegations didn’t produce a guilty finding, not one of these 25 was listed at Stanford as an unfounded claim in its Clery Act report—a good reminder of the unwillingness of universities to make such a designation in the context of sexual assault, lest they generate protest from accusers’ rights groups or their faculty allies, such as Stanford Law Professor Michele Dauber. Even Harvard, whose adjudication process is so notoriously one-sided as to generate public dissent from more than two dozen Harvard Law professors, listed two unfounded claims in 2016-2017.

The Sullivan Report has another odd component: it appears to use “rape” and “sexual assault” interchangeably, despite the differences between the two types of offenses. Sullivan offers no explanation for this decision.

Another report, from Stanford Provost Persis Drell, offers a little more insight into the situation at Stanford. Drell’s report covered allegations from March 2016 through May 2017, thus including four months of cases that Sullivan’s did not, and excluding around two months of cases (June 2017 and some portion of May 2017) that made Sullivan’s report.

Drell portrayed conditions even more apocalyptically than had Sullivan: “In any given room of women,” said she, “80 percent to 90 percent of us have either personally experienced sexual violence or have witnessed its devastating effects first hand on a very close friend or family member.”

Yet Drell’s statistics painted a quite different story. Of the eight Title IX tribunals that met during the 15 months covered in her report, four yielded not-guilty findings (three unanimously, one by a 2-1 vote). And of the four guilty findings, none yielded expulsions—suggesting that the offense was somewhere short of forcible rape. In addition to the four not-guilty findings, seven more allegations never even went to a hearing, presumably due to insufficient evidence, after an investigation by the Stanford Title IX office.

There were fourteen additional allegations. (At least six, and perhaps all fourteen, of these allegations also appeared in the Sullivan Report.) In three of these cases, the accused student clearly pled guilty. But the other eleven cases were resolved with “no-contact directives and other remedies”—outcomes, in short, that carried no implication of guilt.

This data suggests not an epidemic but instead, a campus environment in which students (perhaps understandably, responding to a radicalized campus culture) bring allegations that are so dubious even Stanford’s procedures can’t justify a guilty finding.

These figures, it’s worth noting, coincided with Stanford’s decision to create a slightly fairer system—to define rape as California does in its criminal code, to allow guilty findings only by a 3-0 hearing vote, and to give accused students some trained (legal) assistance. These changes altered the ostentatiously unfair system created by Dauber, which existed from 2010 through 2015. Based on the material from Drell’s report, one can only imagine how many wrongful guilty findings occurred under the Dauber system.

The Drell Report challenged prevailing accusers’ rights narratives in two other ways. First, it found no over-representation of either athletes or fraternity members among accused students. (Athletes, in fact, were underrepresented.) And 75 percent of cases involved alcohol or drug use by one or both parties, suggesting that attention to these matters could help reduce campus crime.

As with the Spangler Reports at Yale, material from the Drell and Sullivan reports suggests that Betsy DeVos is on the right track in her efforts to move beyond the use of Title IX tribunals as de facto kangaroo courts.

Editor’s Note: The first paragraph was revised for clarity on October 13, 2017. 

The Rising Danger of Left-Right Tribalism

Ignore the unfortunate headline (“America Wasn’t Built for Humans”). This is a   brilliant essay by Andrew Sullivan from the September 19 issue of New York Magazine, sure to irritate both the right and left, on the dangerous tribalism Americans have fallen into.

An excerpt:

Not all resistance to mass immigration or multiculturalism is mere racism or bigotry; and not every complaint about racism and sexism is baseless. Many older white Americans are not so much full of hate as full of fear. Equally, many minorities and women face genuine blocks to their advancement because of subtle and unsubtle bias, and it is not mere victim-mongering. We also don’t have to deny African-American agency in order to account for the historic patterns of injustice that still haunt an entire community. We need to recall that most immigrants are simply seeking a better life, but also that a country that cannot control its borders is not a country at all. We’re rightly concerned that religious faith can easily lead to intolerance, but we needn’t conclude that having faith is a pathology. We need not renounce our cosmopolitanism to reengage and respect those in rural America, and we don’t have to abandon our patriotism to see that the urban mix is also integral to what it means to be an American today. The actual solutions to our problems are to be found in the current no-man’s-land that lies between the two tribes. Reentering it with empiricism and moderation to find different compromises for different issues is the only way out of our increasingly dangerous impasse.

DeVos’ New Focus on Rights of the Accused

In her speech last week on how colleges handle accusations of sexual assault., Education Secretary Betsy DeVos promised to “end the era of rule by letter” begun by the Obama administration. The reference was to the “Dear Colleague” letter sent to colleges and universities by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights on April 4, 2011, offering “guidance” but in effect mandating new procedures notably harsher toward the accused. Hundreds of schools were placed under federal investigation for failing to treat allegations of sexual assault more vigorously. Schools responded quickly—building a campus “court system” that venerated victims, villainized the accused, and sometimes disallowed evidence pointing to the innocence of the accused.

The deck was quickly stacked against the civil rights of the accused by discouraging cross-examination of witnesses, and in many cases, refusing legal representation for the accused. A lower standard of evidence was created to determine guilt as nearly all campuses quickly adopted the “preponderance of evidence” basis for guilt rather than the “clear and convincing” standard they used in the past.

While a handful of Republican female lawmakers like Senator Kelly Ayotte has promoted harsher penalties for campus sexual assault, there is a dramatic difference between the ways in which the Republican Party platform differs from the Democratic Party platform.  The Republican platform clearly supports due process for all those involved by stating that “Whenever reported, it must be promptly investigated by civil authorities and prosecuted in a courtroom, not a faculty lounge.

Questions of guilt or innocence must be decided by a judge and jury, with guilt determined beyond a reasonable doubt.”  In contrast, the Democratic Party platform demands “comprehensive support for survivors and sexual violence prevention programs in colleges and in high schools. And although they promise a “fair process for on-campus disciplinary proceedings,” they want to keep the proceedings “victim-centered” in what for most of the accused is a hostile environment on campus.

Demanding that colleges and universities comply, the OCR threatened the withdrawal of federal funds from schools that failed to set up an elaborate—and costly—Title IX bureaucracy on each campus—replete with full-time Title IX coordinators. A recent Atlantic article by Emily Yoffe pointed out that Harvard now has 55 Title IX coordinators, and Wellesley College has a full-time Title IX coordinator to oversee sex discrimination on its all-female campus. According to The New York Times, the OCR currently has 496 open sexual assault cases, and the average length of a case is 703 days. The longest pending higher education cases against the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Arizona State University have been open for more than five years.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) recently issued a “Spotlight on Due Process 2017,” a rating of the top 53 universities in the country based on 10 fundamental elements of due process. The report describes the findings as “dire.” Nearly three-quarters (74%) of America’s top 53 universities do not even guarantee students that they will be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Fewer than half of the schools (47%) require that the fact-finders – the institution’s version of judge and or jury—be impartial. Forty-five of the 53 universities studied received a D or F rating from FIRE for at least one disciplinary policy, meaning that they fully provided more than 4 of the 10 elements of a fair procedure that FIRE rated. Seventy-nine percent of the 53 rated universities received a D or F for protecting the due process rights of students accused of sexual misconduct.

Some of the most prestigious Catholic colleges in the country received the lowest ratings for providing due process rights to individuals accused of sexual misconduct. For example, Boston College received one of the lowest ratings of the 53 schools—an F-rating—for failing to provide a clearly stated presumption of innocence, adequate written notice of allegations, adequate time to prepare for the disciplinary process including notice of the hearing date, and a prohibition on conflicts of interest that could compromise the integrity of the process. The University of Notre Dame received a D rating. Neither Notre Dame nor Boston College provides the accused with the right to counsel. But, both schools fared better than Washington University in St. Louis which received a zero—the lowest score of all 53 schools rated – providing none of the procedural safeguards.   Of the 53, none received an A grade. Two institutions (Cornell and UC Berkeley) received a B for their policies to protect students, and an additional six received at least a C rating.

Senator Kamala Harris is correct when she states that Title IX protections are a civil rights issue. But, she fails to understand that the civil rights of an entire class of individuals have been ignored. Worse, there is an emerging concern that race may appear to play an important role in the denial of due process. A 2015 article by Harvard Law School Professor Jeannie Suk Gerson, published in The New Yorker, found that “in general,” the administrators and faculty members she has spoken with who work on sexual misconduct cases indicate that “most of the complaints they see are against minorities.”

Earlier this month, Emily Yoffe’s essay, “The Questions of Race in Campus Sexual Assault Cases,” was published in The Atlantic. She asks, “Is the system biased against men of color?” And although the data to answer this question with certainty is not available, Yoffe provides preliminary data that are certainly suggestive—and she provides a clear direction for further research. For example, Colgate was recently investigated by OCR for potential race discrimination in its sexual assault adjudication process. Although the university was cleared, there are significant disparities in the numbers. In the 2013-14 academic year, 4.2 percent of Colgate’s students were black, but in that year black male students were accused of 50% of the sexual assault violations reported, and they made up 40% of the students formally adjudicated.

From 2012-2015, black students were accused of 25% of the sexual misconduct reported to the university and comprised 21% of the students referred for formal hearings. Yoffe lists several other schools involved in civil lawsuits filed by accused male students with what she calls “racial aspects” including Amherst, Butler University, Drexel, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore, the University of Findlay in Ohio, University of Pennsylvania, and William Paterson University in New Jersey. Yoffe points out that “Each lawsuit states that the student or students were subject to specious charges and in some cases abrupt expulsions because they were minorities.”

The denial of due process protections to the accused—whatever their race—is certainly a civil rights issue and demands systematic data collection and public scrutiny. Secretary DeVos knows it is time to end the real violations of the civil rights that have been occurring in campus kangaroo courts. We should all be grateful to her for having the courage to do just that.

Double Jeopardy for the Accused at Duke

Some colleges seem so eager to find males culpable of sexual offenses that they insert a provision in campus student-discipline rules allowing a form of double jeopardy. Ron Gronberg reported yesterday in the Durham Herald-Sun that Duke University changed the  wording in the Duke Community Standard in Practice (P.47).  Gone is the right of the  appeals panel to throw out a case against the accused on appeal. Now such a case will revert to the Office of Student Conduct, which can opt to continue the case, despite the finding in favor of the accused.

Gronberg reports: “On its face, the wording sets up the theoretical possibility a student could be accused of misconduct, be found responsible, appeal, win on appeal and then face a never-ending string of new hearings, new findings, and new appeals.”

More on Title IX Corruption at Yale

In a 2012 resolution agreement with the Office for Civil Rights, Yale became the nation’s only university required to document all sexual assault allegations on campus. The reports, prepared by Yale Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler, are generally bare-bones (and became even more so last year, after Spangler announced she’d decided to supply less information about some unresolved complaints), but nonetheless provide a peek into the deeply unhealthy atmosphere—at least at elite campuses—regarding the investigation and adjudication of sexual assault complaints. The most recent of the Spangler Reports, which covers events in the first six months of 2017, has now appeared.

Minding the Campus has covered each of the previous Spangler reports, which have included such items as:

As always, Spangler notes that the university “uses a more expansive definition of sexual assault” than does either Connecticut state law or the federal government (through Clery Act requirements). The university has never offered an explanation as to why it does so. As she did for the first time in her early 2017 report, Spangler has added adds a vague assertion that it “assigns complaints to general categories such as ‘sexual assault’ . . . that encompass broad ranges of behavior”—but, again, why sexual assault should “encompass broad ranges of behavior” beyond the common legal or cultural understanding of the term remains a mystery.

Channeling Crime Victims Away from Law Enforcement

Defenders of the Obama-era Title IX guidelines generally deny that the guidelines undermine society’s goal of punishing criminals through the judicial system. Rather, they suggest, filing a Title IX complaint doesn’t preclude an accuser from also going to the police.

The Spangler Reports show the shortcomings of this argument: for the vast majority of accusers, the choice between Title IX and law enforcement is an either-or selection. (This should come as little surprise, given the anti-judicial system rhetoric of much of the accusers’ rights movement.) The most recent Spangler document indicates that only 3.7 percent (1 of 27) of Yale accusers who say they were sexually assaulted reported that offense to the police. All others went to the Title IX office. This figure is typical: for the July-December 2016 period, 4.3 percent (1 of 23) of accusers went to the police.

Through procedures ordered by the federal government, Title IX tribunals function as de facto substitutes for law enforcement and only heighten the importance of their failure to provide fair procedures. Indeed, this kind of system provides support for Jed Rubenfeld’s argument that the Due Process Clause should apply to campus Title IX adjudications.


As described by Spangler, the Yale University campus is one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the entire country. The report indicates that 0.8 percent of female undergraduates considered themselves a victim of violent crime (either sexual assault or intimate partner violence) in the first six months of 2017 alone. Such an annual rate has a typical Yale female undergraduate as at nearly as much risk as a resident of Detroit (the nation’s most dangerous city) of being a victim of all forms of violent crime.

And, Spangler assures her readers, Yale’s campus is even more dangerous than these figures suggest. “We know,” Spangler writes, that a “significant number of individuals who have experienced sexual misconduct do not report their experiences to University officials or seek support from University resources.” So, for a typical female undergraduate, Yale might actually be more dangerous than Detroit. Yet parents are still eager to spend upwards of $250,000 to send their daughters into this den of violent crime.

Yale’s disciplinary sentences, however, seem to be at odds with Spangler’s picture of a campus beset by an epidemic of violent crime. All three undergraduates who appeared before the UWC (Yale’s Title IX disciplinary tribunal) unsurprisingly were found guilty, though one was cleared of the most serious charges. The sentences? A reprimand, a three-term suspension, and a two-term suspension. The latter two punishments came for students found guilty of “sexual penetration without consent.”

There are two ways of interpreting this data. First, Yale believes that rapists—an offense that describes “sexual penetration without consent”—should not be expelled. Second, amidst a moral panic, Yale has so redefined what constitutes “sexual penetration without consent” as to trivialize the offense.

The Title IX Coordinator

Continuing a pattern evident in the last couple of Spangler Reports, the vast majority of cases were clustered in the Title IX coordinator—23 of 27 reports of sexual assault went not to police or even to a hearing, but instead just to the coordinator. In one respect, this is a good thing: an accuser can receive accommodations (including academic accommodations) without activating the kangaroo court. (Some of these allegations come across as almost blatant attempts to obtain accommodations, as in the Yale undergraduate who “reported that an individual whom the complainant did not identify sexually assaulted the complainant.”) In most of these cases, the accused student received counseling and a no-contact order (the allegation always appears to have been presumed true), but no additional punishment.

There are, however, two interesting items from the coordinator cluster. First, for the second consecutive reporting period, the Title IX office itself filed no sexual assault complaints against Yale students. This change reverses the previous practice of the office, rather than the accuser, filing complaints. It’s doubtless a coincidence that this shift came just after a lawsuit filed by Jack Montague, who was found guilty after the office, rather than his accuser, filed the Title IX charges against him. Ironically, this sudden disinclination of the Title IX office comes after the Spangler Report eliminated restrictions on the kind of complaints the office was supposed to file. The office’s disregard of those restrictions is at the heart of the Montague lawsuit.

Second, one way to see the Spangler Report is as a document designed to appease (or fuel) a campus accusers’ rights movement. The report provides no information about nearly three-fifths (16 of 27) of the sexual assault complaints filed by undergraduates. These were cases in which the accuser expressly asked the Title IX office to do nothing in cases that came to the attention of the Title IX office “from a third party, such as an administrator, a friend of those involved, or a witness.” Yet for the purpose of the report, each of these allegations is treated as a legitimate claim. When Spangler provided information about these sorts of cases, the summary often read something like a Yale student reported that an unknown student was sexually assaulted by another unknown student. A system that treats such reports seriously is hard to take seriously.


The previous Spangler Report promised that the university was “working to shed more light on Yale’s procedures through the creation of additional ‘hypothetical case scenarios’ that address a broad range of behaviors and are tailored to local campus communities.” No new scenarios appeared—the current report, instead, linked to the existing version of the scenarios, which Yale had appeared to ignore in the Montague case. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the lawsuit explains the sudden non-availability of new scenarios.

The previous report also implied that the Title IX office would be working to address unspecified “patterns of academic” life through a program that “has been offered in numerous departments” Such a plan seemed to violate academic freedom, by giving staff the power to dictate content. It’s unclear from the current report whether Spangler moved ahead with her effort.