Thursday, October 13, 2011

College men beware: If a woman who lives in your dorm accuses you of rape, you are supposed to be evicted

The University of Hawaii Manoa is defending itself against charges leveled by a well-known women's advocate who says the school isn't doing enough to protect victims of sexual assault. Kathryn Xian claims that when an accusation is made involving students residing in the same dorm, the school is supposed to immediately remove the "perpetrator" (she doesn't call him the "alleged" perpetrator), but that doesn't happen. (As discussed below, the Department of Education now appears to mandate that when the accuser and accused live in the same dorm, the accused must be removed, not just at the University of Hawaii, but everywhere.)

The University's security chief said that Xian's accusation is unfounded, and that an accused student may even be evicted on the basis of an accusation. "But," a news report says, "Xian wants more." It's not exactly clear what "more" she wants, but apparently she wants a policy of eviction as a matter of course -- in her words -- "for the best interests of the students."

Is blithely treating presumptively innocent men as if they were "perpetrators," before any serious investigation and without affording them any due process rights, in "the best interest of students"? It certainly isn't in the best interests of innocent men falsely accused of rape.  (In the infamous Hofstra false rape case, the lone Hofstra student accused of rape was barred from campus based on nothing more than the wild fabrication of his false accuser before any serious investigation had occurred.) 

Is there any evidence that an alleged college acquaintance rapist is reasonably likely to exact revenge on a woman for making a sexual assault accusation?  And isn't the real goal of these eviction policies to institutionalize the view that women don't lie about rape, and, therefore, it is fair to start punishing  presumptively innocent men without so much as a serious investigation, much less due process?

Ms. Xian's view is sadly consistent with the Department of Education's regrettable April 4 "Dear Colleague" directive. That directive seems to leave no room for colleges to do anything except evict the accused student from his dorm if his accuser also lives there; in addition, it mandates that he also be removed from any classes he takes with his accuser:

"Title IX requires a school to take steps to protect the complainant as necessary, including taking interim steps before the final outcome of the investigation. The school should undertake these steps promptly once it has notice of a sexual harassment or violence allegation. The school should notify the complainant of his or her options to avoid contact with the alleged perpetrator and allow students to change academic or living situations as appropriate. For instance, the school may prohibit the alleged perpetrator from having any contact with the complainant pending the results of the school’s investigation. When taking steps to separate the complainant and alleged perpetrator, a school should minimize the burden on the complainant, and thus should not, as a matter of course, remove complainants from classes or housing while allowing alleged perpetrators to remain."  (Emphasis added.)

Wendy Kaminer, a self-described civil libertarian feminist, explained what's wrong with that policy: "Generally, the [Department of Education's] letter displays much more concern for the sensitivities of accusers over the rights of the accused. Schools should, for example, separate complainants and alleged perpetrators while investigations are pending, and in doing so, they should 'minimize the burden on the complainant.' Why not also minimize the burden on the alleged perpetrator? The Obama administration, like the administrations of so many colleges and universities, implicitly approaches sexual harassment and sexual violence cases with a presumption of guilt."

Ms. Kaminer labels the disregard for the rights of the accused "a palpable hostility" to liberty, the product of an "authoritarian impulse."

If we want to understand the mentality of the persons behind efforts like the one in Hawaii to deprive presumptively innocent men of their liberties on the basis of nothing more than an accusation, let's go back 5½ years. A petition was circulated that included the following assertions that would now be laughable if they weren't so chilling:

"We are outraged by the commercial sexual exploitation and brutal gang rape of a young African-American woman student by white European-American members of Duke University's lacrosse team, who had hired her as an "exotic dancer” on March 13, 2006. . . . .

"We must understand this crime for what it is: simultaneously a violent crime and an egregious abuse of sex, race, and class privilege.

"The Durham community has held vigils and public protests against these horrific sexual assaults. There have been outpourings of support and rage at North Carolina Central University (the victim’s school), and at Duke University (the lacrosse team’s school). The district attorney seems to have taken the victim’s testimony seriously, and has threatened to charge Duke lacrosse team members with obstruction of justice for keeping silence to protect their brothers.

"Charges were finally filed against two of the perpetrators of the crimes against the victim on April 17, 2006. The assault against this woman is both a race hate crime and a sex hate crime. Will there be justice in Durham North Carolina for this young woman? Will she ever heal from this nightmare?"

Among the persons who signed that petition was "GiRL FeST Hawaii and The Safe Zone Foundation, Kathryn Xian." 

That tells you everything you need to know.