The Harvard Crimson Staff has penned an opinion piece about sexual assault that is puerile even for a school that once had a conniption over a snow penis. It manifests a hostility to due process for men accused of sex offenses that is both unapologetic and jarring. There's not even an attempt to justify its conclusions with anything remotely resembling evidence.
Here's all you need to know about this sad little piece. It says this: "The addition of 'preponderance of the evidence' and the prospect of 'affirmative consent' both come down more severely on accused assailants." Yet, elsewhere it says this: "There is little chance that the new evidentiary standard will cause scores of innocent students to be expelled from the university. Instead, it will facilitate the path to justice for survivors of sexual violence."
The suggestion that the innocent need not fear the reduction of rights for the accused is posited with no support beyond the writers' serene and politically correct ipse dixit. When you reduce the protections provided the accused, the risk of punishing innocent students is enhanced. That's not open to serious dispute. So why the cavalier disregard for men accused of rape? Because this is yet another in a long conga line of pieces that says only eight percent of sexual assault claims are false. The clear implication -- that the other 92 percent are actual rapes -- is simply not verifiable. Dr. David Lisak, a darling of feminist rape pundits, has concluded that the majority of sexual assault claims can't be classified as either rape or non-rape. But, hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good PC rant?
The piece also tries to justify use of the “preponderance of evidence” standard in college sex cases by noting that it "is the same burden of proof used in most civil cases . . . ." That is correct, but the writers left out a critical fact: in civil cases, for even relatively insignificant monetary damages, defendants are afforded all manner of procedural and evidentiary protections that are notoriously absent in college sex tribunals. Among many, many others, these critical rights include the right to have counsel present and actively participate at every stage of the proceedings; the right to confront and vigorously cross-examine the plaintiff and other witnesses at depositions and trial; and safeguards against hearsay and other evidence generally deemed unworthy of trust. That the authors don't think these are sufficiently significant to even mention is astounding. If we are going to use the civil standard in college sex proceedings, then let's use the civil standard -- it includes all those rights, and many others, that the accused in college sex tribunals are routinely denied.
I will end this post by asking again the question I posed in the Crimson to then-Harvard professor Kimberly Theidon -- I don't see that she ever answered me (if she did, she's free to write and tell me): is it "proper to trivialize the victimization of one group just because the victimization of another group might be 'more statistically significant'?"
The answer at Harvard is a resounding "yes."