Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Angry Penn law students lash out at law professors' call for fairness: COTWA's response

A group of 36 angry law students at Penn have written a diatribe in response to the open letter signed by 16 Penn law professors decrying the absence of fairness in Penn's disciplinary proceedings for alleged sex offenses. You can read it here -- but don't read it on an empty stomach.

The students' blather devolves into de rigueur feminist name calling: the professors' letter manifests their "sexist policy preferences," they cluck. The Penn professors, and presumably the many other law professors across America who are expressing similar concerns, are not really concerned about "fairness" -- it's all just a masquerade for sexism. How do we know? Because they are advocating for "fairness" that will benefit the one group that, apparently, is undeserving of fairness, college men.

The students object to the very idea that their law professors would go to bat for fair procedures in sexual assault cases--as if the professors were siding with rapists against women. The overriding theme of their jaw dropping rant is that schools have no obligation to be fair to students accused of any kind of wrongdoing, so they should not be concerned about fairness for one particular kind of wrongdoing -- "private universities can discipline students with no process whatsoever," they proclaim. (Wouldn't that be a wonderful tagline on a college brochure -- "If you are accused of serious wrongdoing that carries life-altering consequences, don't expect us to treat you fairly!"  Here's my $40,000 tuition -- when can I start!)  It is difficult to recall the last time a group was so terribly opposed to fairness.

The students posit: "Why do you think it should be legally harder to expel someone for rape than for moving newspapers . . . ?" First, I am not aware that the Department of Education has mandated unfair procedures for "paper movers" the way it has done for students accused of sexual assault. Second, the very premise, of course, is silly: students are very rarely expelled for moving newspapers, not even close in most such cases, and it should be "legally harder" to be branded a rapist by a respected college than to be branded a "paper mover" because the consequences are indisputably greater for the former, often life-altering.  Cornell's Prof. Cynthia Bowman said this: “The consequences for someone expelled for sexual assault are enormous and will follow him throughout his life, leading to rejection by other schools, inability to qualify for the bar and a great deal of stigma. To impose those consequences on someone requires a rigorous standard of proof and many due process protections to ensure fairness.” Brett Sokolow, probably the most prominent victim's advocate on American campuses, has expressed concern that "a lot of colleges now are expelling and suspending people they shouldn't, for fear they’ll get nailed on Title IX.” He said it is close to hysteria.  He, too, points out that the stakes are high for students expelled for sexual assault: expelled students no longer automatically have the option of just registering at another school. “Now colleges are starting to share information, they’re starting to put notations on transcripts.”

The angry Penn students continue: ". . . the 'Open Letter' must be seen for what it is: a disagreement with Title IX’s mandate that sexual assault survivors not be made to struggle through grievance procedures that specially insulate those accused of sexual assault."  Here, finally, the students tip their hand and show their bias: sexual assault accusers are "survivors," the accusation is tantamount to a conviction, and insuring fair proceedings "insulate[s] those accused of sexual assault" (I think they really mean fair proceedings "protect rapists").

That argument is ripped from the playbook of due process deniers dating to the hanging trees of the Old South. Regular readers know that for those who were sympathetic to lynchings of black men accused of rape, due process was deemed a hindrance to the fair administration of justice, and the criminal justice system was deemed “incapable” of meting out the punishment that was needed. What was the lynch mob’s reaction to those who denounced lynchings? To malign them as fanatics and victim blamers, of course. Sound familiar?

Why do I get the impression that these students would agree with Amanda Childress, Sexual Assault Awareness Program coordinator at Dartmouth College, who openly asked, "Why could we not expel a student based on an allegation?"

We are stranded in an era where it is politically correct to argue against fair proceedings for alleged wrongdoing, so long as the alleged wrongdoers are college men. This, of course, not only is a grotesque betrayal of longstanding progressive values, it is topsy turvy worthy of Gilbert and Sullivan, and it is absurd on its face. The Penn students' puerile rant isn't deserving of serious or extended refutation. It just sounds like they can't stand the fact that respected progressives are finally realizing that feminist advocacy is no substitute for fair policy.