Monday, February 4, 2013

Northwestern students, if you want something worthy to chant about, it's not a presumptively innocent man accused of a sex offense, it's the unfair process that expelled him

At a Northwestern-Maryland basketball game on Northwestern's home court last semester, Maryland guard Dez Wells was showered the full 40 minutes with “no means no” chants. The chants were in reference to a sexual assault allegation that resulted in Wells' expulsion from Xavier University. Mr. Wells called the comments hateful, but didn't seem to mind. He had a spectacular game.

Northwestern did nothing to express its disapproval of its students' reaction to Mr. Wells. It is no stretch to suspect that it either didn't care or that important voices at the school approved.

Alex Putterman, a reporter for the Daily Northwestern, is now defending that taunts (Putterman was one of the taunters), which, in Putterman's words, "mock[ed] someone for a serious legal and moral crime."

Alex Putterman's suggestion that Mr. Wells committed "a serious legal and moral crime" requires correction.

Mr. Wells was expelled from Xavier University, but that's not the whole story. Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters not only declined to pursue a sexual assault case against Mr. Wells, he outright excoriated Xavier officials for the process they used to expel Mr. Wells. In words that should be chilling to all men on American college campuses and the women who care about them, Mr. Deters called the system “fundamentally unfair” and “seriously flawed.”

Mr. Deters, it should be underscored, is scarcely a men's rights activist. Nor is he an ACLU attorney. He's a prosecutor whose effectiveness is determined, in part, by how well he prosecutes rapists and other felons.

But the Wells case, Mr. Deters said, “should never have gotten to the point where someone’s reputation is ruined.” The university's panel was "untrained" to deal with sexual assault allegations, he said. In contrast, Deters took the allegation seriously and assigned two assistant prosecutors “who are highly skilled at assessing these kinds of cases.” The Grand Jury declined to prosecute, and Deters said that, based on the evidence that was presented, “It wasn’t even close...." (And, dear readers, you should know this: the standard of proof at Grand Jury indictments -- preponderance of the evidence -- is the same as the standard of proof on college campuses for sex offenses.)

If Alex Putterman and the other taunting students at Northwestern want something worthy to chant about, its a collegiate disciplinary system that puts college men at serious risk -- a system that a seasoned prosecutor has called “fundamentally unfair” and “seriously flawed.”

And, yes, I know -- it's a game, and the students were just being typical fans by taunting an opposing player. Blah, blah, blah. Great. So, tell me, how come over at Tufts, male students who attended a women's volleyball game were officially punished for sexist taunting of opposing players? Among the comments was this one, made when a player squatted to receive a serve: “Look at those childbearing hips!” (I am guessing that the First Amendment only applies to speech that schools approve of?  Yes! That must be it!  Tufts seems to have a problem with speech that isn't politically correct: see here and here.)

It is astounding to COTWA that so few college men seem to care about the inherent inequities in the disciplinary process -- until it happens to them, and then some of them write to this blog for help. They would do well to start by reading some of the criticisms of the Department of Education's "Dear Colleague" letter: