Monday, February 17, 2014

Dartmouth defends administrator's hateful comment about expelling students based solely on a sex accusation

Here's a follow-up to the Kafkaesque, hateful comment by Dartmouth administrator's Amanda Childress we reported on last week. You might recall that Childress was speaking about alleged sex offenses when she said this: "Why could we not expel a student based on an allegation?"

Astoundingly, Dartmouth is defending the comment:
Dartmouth says that Childress . . . was speaking rhetorically and that the question did not represent a personal belief. 
"[S]he was not suggesting policy, but was asking a question—a provocative one—meant to generate dialogue around complex issues for which answers are necessary to continue to strengthen and promote fair and equitable processes at all colleges and universities,” Dartmouth College spokesman Justin Anderson told Campus Reform in an emailed statement.
Dartmouth's reaction only makes matters worse.

Dartmouth should have used the concerns expressed about Childress's comment as an occasion to affirm its commitment to long-cherished principles of due process. For starters, it should have unequivocally distanced itself from the comment. Instead, Dartmouth chose to endorse the comment and to insist that it raises important issues that need to be discussed.

It is one thing for a college to have a rogue administrator who makes hateful comments, quite another for the school to lend its imprimatur to them.

The question that Dartmouth thinks is legitimate "to generate dialogue around complex issues" is, of course, no more legitimate than asking why blacks aren't stripped of their due process rights when they are accused of crimes because of the prevalence of criminal convictions in the African American community. Even posing such a question would generate instantaneous, widespread, and justifiable outrage. That Childress's comment did not generate any, much less remotely similar, outrage outside of a small corner of the Internet is a chilling barometer of a stifling political correctness that has gripped the academy. Dartmouth's defense of Childress's comment is morally grotesque and an affront not only to the community of the wrongly accused but to all civilized notions of decency.

The question that Dartmouth thinks is legitimate to start a dialogue is reminiscent of the well-known, odious comments by Vassar's Catherine Comins, who suggested that false rape claims can be beneficial for their victims because they supposedly spark introspection:
Catherine Comins, assistant dean of student life at Vassar, . . . argues that men who are unjustly accused [of rape] can sometimes gain from the experience. "They have a lot of pain, but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them. I think it ideally initiates a process of self-exploration. ‘How do I see women?’ ‘If I didn’t violate her, could I have?’ ‘Do I have the potential to do to her what they say I did?’ Those are good questions.”
Comins' bizarre comment has been quoted frequently as symptomatic of a hateful trivialization of the wrongly accused. We doubt that Vassar ever went so far as to officially endorse it as Dartmouth has endorsed Childress's similarly offensive comment.

The only legitimate questions that Childress's comment raises are these: Where are the Dartmouth parents who pay in excess of $40,000 per year to send their sons to that school? Do they think it's legitimate to ask if their sons should be expelled if they are merely accused of a sex offense?  Where are the Dartmouth alumni? Is this the kind of dialogue they think is appropriate? Where are the Dartmouth students? Do they think it's somehow appropriate to ask whether they or their male classmates should be expelled solely on the basis of an accusation?

Cue the crickets. Perhaps they all need to be reminded that due process is the greatest bulwark against tyranny ever designed by man, that it doesn't exist to protect the guilty but the innocent, and that to protect the innocent, it must be applied to everyone. Perhaps they never learned any of that.

Discussing ways to reduce sexual assault on campus is a legitimate and worthwhile endeavor. Suggesting that due process be discarded for one class of students should be cause to terminate the person who suggested it, not to defend, embrace, excuse, or legitimize the suggestion.