Monday, June 1, 2015

The Futility of Title IX

Activists and laws like Title IX require colleges and universities to take "immediate and effective steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence."

Let's look at a specific example of these steps, as outlined by one Boston University student's letter to the editor:
My story is also a familiar one: it starts at a frat party and it ends seven months later with a thick folder of official paperwork and nothing to show for it except a figurative and patronizing pat on the head. My assailant will not be punished by the university for what he did to me.
I am not going to re-hash the details of my assault here; this letter is not about the violence that occurred on that one night (nor the emotional trauma it has caused me since then). It is about the ongoing violence of administrative negligence. It is an answer to the question, “why don’t more survivors report?”
At the end of the first judicial process, my assailant admitted to the investigators that he “made an assumption” and that he was “wrong.” The judicial committee found him responsible for rape and suspended him for a semester. I was relieved. I was proud of BU. It had taken most of my first semester, but they had come to the right decision. They told my assailant his behavior was unacceptable, and they thanked me for coming forward.
Then, my assailant was automatically granted an appeal based on no new evidence. For some reason, he was allowed to bypass a hearing board and appeal directly to the provost, eliminating any chance of appeal for me, something the Dean of Students and the investigators told me multiple times I would have. My assailant requested a stay of suspension from the provost. I sent an email to the provost asking what grounds he had for this request. She did not respond. This was on a Friday. I submitted my official response to his request on the following Monday (the time limit I was given for responding), and the provost approved his stay of suspension the next day, around lunchtime. He was once again allowed to take classes here.

The rest of the letter describes how BU has failed in this case by taking back the suspension.

Whether or not the university is right to take back the suspension is irrelevant - what is surprising is that a single semester suspension could possibly fulfill Boston University's Title IX requirements. One could imagine that the accused student is fighting this charge out of pride for his record and not out of want to avoid the pain of the punishment.

Anyone familiar with modern brands of feminism know that one dastardly sin to commit is to create a "rape culture". A "rape culture" can be grown from many things, but two important methods would include:
  • Creating "gradations" of rape.
  • Normalizing rape by regarding it as an accident that happens sometimes.
A single semester suspension from a university does both these things. Apparently there is a version of rape that is only punished by forcing the perpetrator to do something other than study for a while. Further, the punishment is mundane enough to be everyday. Legions of accused students could grow to accept the "semester off" as just something one has to do to placate the well meaning but toothless university administration and student activists.

There are many blessings in a semester away from school. It provides a lot of time to  research one's accuser and follow them around while looking for evidence that would undermine their credibility. And it's absolutely not illegal to visit any bar that students like and find another potential victim.

Actions taken by schools to keep Title IX and "feminist" advocacy happy is simply lip service paid to liberals that are confused by or outright despise the role of the police and the existing justice system. It would be fine to create a justice system in parallel, and use the same words for crimes, if it was not entirely incapable of protecting the public at large in any way.

It's only a matter of time until universities and campus "feminism" creates their own version of Willie Horton or Lakewood shooting. At some point, one of these banned-for-a-semester students will get in serious trouble off campus and all will be amazed how little the typical justice system was involved in their behavior.

Defenders of university administrations will use a reasoning used by vigilantes everywhere - "it's better to do something rather than nothing". Above that, it's well within the institution's rights and responsibilities to uphold its own moral code - whatever that may be.

The problem arises when the moral code overlaps with abhorrent criminality. If a person stole something from campus, it's hard to believe the action would be a consequence-free action as long as the person was not a registered student or employee of the university. The university would absolutely report the theft to the police - not merely brand the person a thief in its own records, render its own punishment and then forget about the entire affair.

At the same time, it makes sense to not push every problem through the police. Not every drunken vandalism at college or argumentative idiocy in a boardroom needs to be recorded as an infraction by the government and subject to penalty. Every punch thrown in a dorm room or at a frat party need not always end in formal assault charges.

Yet this logic does not apply to rape, as rape is presumed to be a serious crime. Universities cannot be in the business of stating simply that a rape occurred and doling out meager punishments to people it will label as rapists. This is worse than doing nothing, as it has the effect of doing nothing while wasting everyone's time. 

Advocacy for universities to force the primary punishment campus rape relies on three key things to be of a very specific nature. If these things are not just so, the institution either proves to be unwilling or unable to create an effective intervention.

A certain type of crime is necessary - the assault must not raise a campus-wide panic or have too much conclusive evidence. It cannot be a serial stranger rape at knifepoint behind a lecture hall. It cannot cause bruises or other injuries that would be visible during class. Witnesses at the time of the assault must not be too certain what had happened and must also not be a member of law enforcement or medical authority.

The crime also must occur somewhere near campus grounds. Universities probably will not be held responsible for punishing students for what they are said to have done over summer break. Luckily, rape usually happens in the fall and winter, right?

A certain type of victim is a part of the picture, of course, as the victim needs to be a student. Not a visitor, not a university employee, and definitely not a faculty member. There is perhaps some room for a non-student to petition for a student to be punished, but there is very little reason to suggest that many universities would carry the allegations any further than the police would as universities are not generally enthusiastic about acting as an primary intermediary between all matters concerning staff, students, alumni and outsiders.

A certain type of perpetrator is of the utmost importance. The perpetrator must be a student and must care about their future at the university enough to care about not being expelled or suspended, or subject to the limited number of punishments a university may invent. The perpetrator cannot be someone that actually intimidates any of the institution's staff. The perpetrator must not be a sociopathic recidivist. If the student may actually assault someone again and the university did not immediately ban them forever from campus grounds, the institution would be open to all kinds of future lawsuits about negligence.

The perpetrator must be disturbed enough to rape someone yet together enough to cut it out entirely when subjected to the most diluted scared-straight punishment available on the planet. A campus tribunal is intimidating only to those accustomed to punishment not being anything more than detention after class.

In some way, the campus interventions are doing alleged rapists a favor by creating the appearance of double jeopardy when there is none. For example, in the previous story wherein the institution, victim and perpetrator are presumably fine after the "semester off" is complete, what purpose is served by the actual authorities trying to punish the accused?

Instead of waiting for this trinity of stars to align to dole out some sad excuse for justice, universities should be in the business of actually creating the safe spaces many speak about but never define. That is, a "safe space" should not simply mean a space absent of any controversial opinions. A safe space ought to be what the words describe - a space where physical assault of any kind is actually less likely to occur.

Campuses are already safer spaces when compared to other environments (more on this in other discussions) but more can always be done to supervise the Tumblr generation that apparently only begins to face adult consequences for actions after completing a four year degree. Hire the staff needed to monitor alcohol use, escort students all hours of the day and audit the movements of people in dormitories. Identify the socially awkward penguins that will be a sizable portion of the population of both perpetrators and victims. Create mandatory lectures about acceptable human behavior and social skills that students apparently did not gather while in their creationist high schools.

What will pay for this effort?

Tuition fees. Raise them and pay for it. The institutions that do not do this can be publicly shamed as creating rape cultures or participating in rape apologia in the face of an "epidemic". If prospective students need to work a few years after high school to pay for these services, it would create a virtuous cycle by making universities less likely to have to manage people in their tumultuous teens or younger than a legal drinking age.

Despite the scary statistics and many concerned "journalists", nothing will change. Nothing will change as students and their guardians do not see university campuses as substantially more threatening than the ignored and irreparable disaster that is the final years of high school.

In an nation that has witnessed every type of violence descend upon primary schools, it is absolutely rational to not much care about how many symbolic days off a preppy fratboy receives for misbehavior. And "misbehavior" is the proper word in this context, as the institution places itself under no obligation to actually prove that a crime actually occurred.

It's a ineffective system for timid people with flimsy results.

Truly, a modern activist's dream.

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