Let me get this straight… Ivygate reports that two Yale students complained of being “sexually assaulted” while attending a BDSM Party. What did they think those riding crops were for?
Last week, Yale students received two university-wide Clery Act emails informing them that two Yale students were victims of “sexual assault by an acquaintance, who is also a Yale student” at the Sigma Phi Epsilon house on February 8th. February 8th was the night of the annual “Dom” party thrown by the Women in Power Society (WIPS), a secret society, which was held in the SigEp house.
The “Dom” party is an infamous, no-cellphones-allowed event. From what we hear, people dress up in BDSM gear and porn is projected on the walls as hot freshmen guys pass around drinks. Interestingly, it’s also generalized as one of the safer party SigEp hosts: there is a closed guest list with doors closing at 11 pm and everyone (besides those hot freshmen boys) is over 21-years-old.
For two assaults to happen on a night that typically gets by without major public notice is surprising–but only considering its history of safety. Dom is a party full of porn, S&M, and lots of alcohol, after all.
Yale Police Department Chief Ronnell Higgins reported the two statements in separate emails to the University community on Feb. 19 and Feb. 21. The messages stated that the alleged assaults occurred at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house, and the second email corrected the first by reporting that they were both said to have taken place on Feb. 8.
“I write to let [the University community] know that the Yale Police received an anonymous report today that a second Yale student was the victim of a sexual assault by an acquaintance, who is also a Yale student,” Higgins said in the Feb. 21 email.
On Feb. 22, President of the Yale Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter Andrew Goble ’15 issued a statement saying the fraternity allowed another student group to lease a room in its house for a private event on Feb. 8. The statement said the event was open to guests of that organization, which remained unnamed.
“The members of Yale’s SigEp chapter were shocked and saddened to hear allegations that sexual assault may have occurred in our facility on an evening when the chapter had leased event space to another campus organization,” Goble said in the statement. “At this time, SigEp does not believe that the allegations are against members of their chapter.” ...
On the same night of Feb. 8, a private party in connection with the Women in Power Society (WIPS) senior society, took place at the SigEp fraternity house. Nine students interviewed said that party had a “dominatrix” theme. Several attendees declined to provide additional details about the annual party.
The WIPS said in a statement to the News, “We are not commenting out of respect for the privacy of the individuals involved in this situation.”
A student who attended the party and spoke on the condition of anonymity said the WIPS’ mission is to promote female empowerment.
Esther Zuckerman poses as a SWUG. My commenters are often smarter than I am. One of them, unlike me, noticed that Esther Zuckerman actually used a picture of Tina Fey to illustrate the SWUG type. The “NBC” under the photo should have been a clue. Sigh.
The term goes back a couple of years, but the SWUG concept only recently attracted major attention as the result of a lengthy think piece in the Yale Daily News by Raisa Bruner exploring the culture, the pros and cons, and all possible nuances of SWUGdom, its relationship to Feminism, SWUGdom as fate, as life-phase, as life-style, and as identity.
Yale definitely teaches young people how to play theme and variations on a concept, and Ms. Bruner’s piece caught the attention of one Justin Rocket Silverman (Now that is a millenial generation name!) who, writing in The Cut brought all this to the attention of the World Outside Yale.
Yale senior Raisa Bruner [is] kind of tired of the free-wheeling frat hookup culture that’s so compelling to younger students. The guys know this about women her age, she says, and so they don’t generally hit on senior girls. If she went to Sigma Nu, she’d watch her male classmates focus on that infinitely more fun classmate, the female freshman.
Bruner is a self-identified SWUG — a senior washed up girl. As she explained in a recent feature in the Yale Daily News, to be a SWUG is to embrace “the slow, wine-filled decline of female sexual empowerment as we live out our college glory days. Welcome to the world of the ladies who have given up on boys because they don’t so much empower as frustrate, satisfy as agitate.”
She and her fellow SWUGs are women who don’t bother dressing up for class, or even for fancy parties (though they might still attend them), don’t seek out meaningful (or even just sexual) relationships, spend weekends at their shared homes drinking in the company of other self-identified SWUGs, and feel utter apathy about their personal lives — all at the age of 21.
Gawker decided that all this SWUG stuff really amounted to just a pose and a demand for some attention.
Declaring “‘I don’t give a fuck’ at the right moment,” does not a “more complex person” make. Rather than embracing personal growth internally, there is a clamorous, exaggerated declaration that growing out of a social scene is the equivalent of being “washed-up” in the face of other’s halcyon days. Overall, SWUG-life appears to be a melodramatic desire to make an identity out of boredom and dissatisfaction with the collegiate social scene.
Esther Zuckerman (Y’ 12), at the Atlantic, tells us that she was already a SWUG as a junior two years ago.
I first heard about the term SWUG during my junior year when I was working at the Daily News. From what I can recall, it was described to me as having been coined by a group of girls in the senior class, and I hated it. Yale had been debating treatment of women on campus all year—the school was about to face a Title IX investigation—and the idea of calling any girls on campus “washed-up” was to me offensive and demeaning (the specific words I used in a heated Gchat conversation), even if some fellow women had used the label on themselves.
But I changed my mind on SWUGs as I sort of realized I was one. Looking back through my Gmail inbox today, I crossed into my senior year, when, for me and my friends, SWUG came to be a way we described an attitude that we already possessed. SWUG meant getting meatball subs on a snowy night. SWUGs watched an episode of New Girl twice in a row with a lot red wine. SWUGs baked brownies. In our version of SWUG, an idol might be Liz Lemon, to whom Jack Donaghy once said: “Big night, Lemon? Let me guess meatball sub extra, bottle of NyQuil, TiVo Top Chef, a little miss Bonnie Raitt, lights out.” My fellow would-be SWUGs and I listened to a lot of “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” We cared about our academics and our future careers, but when it came to our social lives in the confines of Yale, well, we, as seniors, couldn’t care less.
The whole SWUG business may have really been put on the map at Yale by a Daily News article by Chloe Drimal, published last September, titled: Profile of a SWUG.
You’ve all met one. They’re usually at penny shots promptly at 11 p.m. come Wednesday night, and are then found in Durfee’s around 1 p.m. the next day, buying every liquid they can get their hands on.
I was jealous of them when I was a freshman. They were on a nickname basis with the hottest guys at Yale and danced at the bar of DKE with their shirts off. But looking back on it, I realize the boys were trying to get with the freshmen, not the SWUGs. ...
She’s the girl who Kevin, the bartender at Toad’s, hugs when she stumbles in Wednesday night. She’ll dance like no one’s looking. She’s a SWUG. She doesn’t care. Tommy at Box 63 and Compadre at Amigos will both give her free shots on occasion; they are not doing this for freshman girls — only for SWUGs.
She’s the girl in the Zeta basement, before the Coach Reno era, who is biting into a can with her teeth to shotgun on a Sunday. Although she could never beat the Zeta boys in a shotgun, she can beat most ADPhi boys.
She’s the girl who knows the code to get into DKE. She knows the code for ADPhi. (If any single senior girl has the key to Zeta, she may want to seek help.) Facebook bores her. She uses Facebook to find out different football players’ birthdays and plugs them into an astrology website to test their compatibility. She is compatible with no one.
She’s the girl who promised she would never hook up with someone younger than her but now finds herself texting sophomore boys who unavoidably turn her down. She thinks this is funny. She thinks about getting a vibrator; she may already have a vibrator. It may be better than that sophomore boy.
She doesn’t need to walk home late at night and chance getting mugged by a New Haven local because she will just sleep on a couch in one of the frats. The late night crew at G-Heav knows to start making her an egg and cheese when they see her stumble through the door, and sometimes they will allow her to dance behind the counter and crack an egg herself. Again, they don’t do this for the young, hot, freshman girls — only SWUGs.
She’s the girl who tells her friends she is going to have a “friendship night.” When they ask what this means she explains she is going to make a guy want her and then turn him down. She gets drunk and wakes up next to the guy she was going to turn down. She knows this will go nowhere, as she has already plugged his birthday into the compatibility website, and their score was a two. She makes up a short lie about a meeting and asks him to leave her room and then goes back to bed. She doesn’t return his texts. She’s a SWUG.
She is the last one at every party, because hey — who is she going home with? She’s not afraid to dance on tables and knows the top floor of any frat always has the cleanest bathroom. She is wise. She is hot, whether the boys believe it or not. She doesn’t give a hoot. She’s single because she wants to be; her daddy told her there’s more fish in the sea. She is a SWUG, and SWUG life is pretty awesome.
Drimal’s glorification of the SWUG made her in a campus celebrity, profiled by the Yale Herald.
If anyone is not totally SWUGed out at this point, he can turn to some more discussions which appeared in the Oldest College Daily.
On a personal note, we had hook ups at Yale in my day, but we did not have either the term or the identical hook up culture. I think that, as I remember it, quite a lot of female seniors in those days had long since taken anticipated Susan Patton’s advice and were in long-term relationships with Yale men.
The SWUG concept reminds me of the characteristic resentment of ordinarily-groomed-and-dressed Yale girls toward male friends’ dates from outside Yale.
The girl from Smith staying over at Yale would arrive at breakfast nicely dressed, in full make-up, hair in perfect order, and her escort’s female Yale friends and neighbors would glower and make faces, regarding his date’s superior efforts at presentation as personal affronts.
Yale girls all tended to think dating outside Yale constituted both punishable treason and firm evidence of bad taste. I once took a date to a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, in which my current wife was singing in the chorus, and found Karen was using every opportunity that my then girlfriend’s eyes were averted to make faces at me.
Betsey Woodruff, in National Review, identifies Lena Dunham’s HBO comedy Girls as a cultural canary-in-the-coal-mine which, if observed carefully, could have told you where the recent presidential election was heading.
At its core, Girls feels like a deliberate, dissective examination of a group of people who stubbornly refuse to grow up and are lucky enough to be able to pull it off. The main thing Dunham’s characters share is the idea that just because they exist, somebody else should give them stuff. In and of itself, depicting that isn’t at all a bad thing. Girls is an interesting project, it’s well executed, and it can be really, really funny. Look, I like Girls, and I’m excited about the second season.
But Dunham’s stupid little YouTube ad for the president might have ruined it all for me. That’s because she sounds like she’s channeling her character, Invasion of the Body Snatchers–style. They share the same baffling, naïvely egomaniacal understanding of justice — they both seem to think that because they exist, the universe needs to make sure that all the sex they choose to have is consequence-free.
You can almost argue that Lena Dunham sees President Obama as the perfect surrogate for everything missing in her characters’ lives: He’s their gentle lover, supportive parent, and empathetic friend. He’s special. He won’t let them down. He’s Prince Charming. And that kind of defeats the purpose of feminism.
You’d think the feminist elevation of agency would result in women who take pride in being responsible for their own bodies. You’d hope that telling women that they can do whatever they want would imply that they’re responsible for what they do. You’d think serious feminists would argue that true empowerment is something you lay claim to, not something the federal government dispenses in all its benevolence. But for Dunham, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
In fact, for all practical purposes, the patriarchy no longer decides whom American women can sleep with and when. That’s great. But if you don’t want men in Washington telling you how to use your sexuality, you shouldn’t expect them to subsidize it. But Dunham seems to actually believe they should. Dunham makes tons of money, and I’m quite confident she can afford to pay for her own birth control. But she doesn’t seem to take pride in that; it’s not what her characters aspire to, and given her foray into the delightful world of presidential-election ads, it doesn’t seem to be something she aspires to, either.
Second-wave feminists lionized the independent woman who paid her own rent and busted through glass ceilings and ran for Congress. Being totally self-sufficient was the goal. The idea was that women didn’t need men, whether those men were their fathers or husbands or boyfriends or presidents. By contrast, Dunham’s new vision of women as lady parts with ballots is infantilizing and regressive.
So Girls isn’t the eschaton, and neither is one vapid YouTube video. But if Dunham’s show were a metaphorical canary in a metaphorical coal mine, it would be struggling pretty hard right now. There’s a reason it’s called Girls, not Women.
Donald Sensing observes that the great paid-for-contraceptives brouhaha is intended by democrats to persuade silly women to vote on the basis of group politics.
In the Democrat mind, sex without sex’s consequences are the only thing that women should think about when they approach a voting booth. Finney and Thompson, et. al., actually think that unless the government makes sure that women’s sex lives are unencumbered, then a woman simply cannot manage her job, housing or children. Sex rules all else.
The Democrat party truly cannot comprehend a woman going to vote who is more concerned about the dent in her paycheck caused by $5-per-gallon gasoline than finding free condoms, or who worries about the future impoverishment of her children and grandchildren because of Obama’s borrow and spend binges more than she worries about buying the Pill, or whose most pressing concern is not sexual liberty, but a college-graduate son or daughter who has moved back to live with mom because s/he can’t find a job and therefore can’t make student loan payments and rent at the same time.
Not in the Dems’ world view is a woman who pays her mortgage every month but who know that her home’s market value is less than the mortgage principal remaining, and stupidly thinks that this is more important to her future (and thus her voting) than getting morning-after pills. There is no room in Democrat gender-identity politics for a woman who has been married to one man for 35 years and so never thinks about getting free contraceptives or an abortion (that is, what Dems say is “basic health care”) but who is intensely concerned with her elderly parents’ net worth falling as inflation rises.
No, these women simply do not authentically exist in the Democrat universe. Such women simply have not heard the full message that there should be nothing more important to a woman than sex, sex, sex.
To the Democrat party, women are simply sex objects, though with political and statist rather than fleshly purposes. But objects is all they are. That’s the real message that countless women get very well and strongly reject.
Caroline May, at the Daily Caller, quoted several opinions: those of Doug Lanpher, the executive director of the national DKE organization; Amy Siskind, president and co-founder of the feminist New Agenda; Robert Shipley, senior vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE); and Hans Bader, Counsel for Special Projects at the Competitive Enterprise Institute on the peculiar action of the Yale University Administration in awarding new sanctions (banning the fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon from the Yale campus for five years) in May in connection with a controversial initiation ritual last October. Despite denials by an obviously mendacious university spokesman, all agreed that Yale was acting in specific response to federal pressure.
So, why is the Federal government’s Department of Education twisting the arm of Mother Yale to beat up on DKE for a frankly sophomoric minor incident?
It seems that DKE was deliberately selected to serve as an example to demonstrate the renewed advance of Title IX federal enforcement, a key element of coercive social engineering fundamental to the strategic agenda of the democrat party’s radical leftwing base.
The complaint about an atmosphere at Yale allegedly hostile to ladies conveniently materialized early last month, from a small group representing in a Yale context the same strategic agenda at precisely the same time when the Obama Administration’s Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, Russlynn Haneefa Ali, issued a “Dear Colleague” letter to essentially every college and university in the land, declaring a federal witch hunt against “sexual harassment” to be underway, defining sexual harassment in the broadest possible terms to include “verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct” in any fashion connected with sex which is “unwelcome” to someone or anyone, and asserting that harassing conduct in general may create “a hostile environment” anytime the conduct is deemed “sufficiently serious” as to interfere with some student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the school’s program.
Instances of witchcraft presumably would be similarly worthy of federal intervention if someone engaged in verbal, nonverbal, or physical magic unwelcome to the alleged victim which created a hostile environment or interfered with a student’s studies.
Universities are not currently obligated to abjure witchcraft, to hire a particular person to receive complaints from persons claiming to have been hexed, and they are not federally required to conduct judicial inquiries into witchcraft complaints or to entertain spectral evidence, but Russlynn Ali’s Dear Colleague letter did decree that, in cases of sexual harassment, the federal government intends to require an official witch-hunter and an entire set of judicial apparatus and procedures be created, complete with victim counseling and support services. Additionally, universities are going to have to keep elaborate sets of records and keep Big Sister intimately informed about how many witches (Excuse me! sexual harassers) they have caught and punished and all the things they are doing to suppress heresy (Excuse me! sexual harassment).
With the threat of federal grant money potentially being withheld, you can count on the Yale Administration to jump eagerly through the hoops of political correctness and the Yale Executive Committee confidentiality policy be damned. The Yale Daily News reports the ultimate denouement of last October’s terrible fraternity initiation chant nightmare.
In an email to students and faculty Tuesday afternoon, Yale College Dean Mary Miller informed the University community about the Executive Committee’s actions concerning the controversial Delta Kappa Epsilon pledge incident Oct. 13. After a full proceeding, Miller said, the Committee found that the Yale DKE chapter had violated the Undergraduate Regulations by threatening and intimidating others that night, when pledges were instructed to chanted phrases such as “No means yes, yes means anal” on Old Campus. The Committee also found several DKE brothers had breached the same regulations, resulting in individual penalties.
“Although it is unusual to send a memorandum regarding a particular Executive Committee decision to the Yale community, a wide range of community members have been affected by this incident,” Miller said in the email. “As a result, I have decided to share the Committee’s decisions regarding this case.”
Although Miller revealed that the Committee issued individual sanctions to fraternity members, federal and University privacy policies prevented her from communicating further details about these disciplinary actions, she said. But Miller did disclose that the Committee imposed penalties on the Yale DKE chapter — despite its status as an unregistered student organization — that prevent it from recruiting new members or holding any events on campus for five years. The sanctions also limit the group’s ability to communicate with the student body and use the Yale name in connection with DKE. ...
The Committee has formally asked that the fraternity’s national organization suspend the chapter for five years. After the Old Campus incident, DKE’s national organization promptly directed the Yale chapter to stop all pledge activities, including the initiation of new members. But the ban was lifted in early November, less than one month after it was imposed.
If, after five years, the fraternity has adhered to these measures and registers as an undergraduate organization, the Committee suggests that the Yale College Dean’s Office lift the penalties.
Although the national organization has yet to receive a formal request for suspension from the University, Executive Director of DKE International Douglas Lanpher said the measures detailed in Miller’s e-mail to the Yale community were “excessive” and that the fraternity’s headquarters would want to appeal the decision if possible.
Indignant female surgeons force President of the American College of Surgeons to resign over Valentine’s Day editorial. New York Times:
Dr. [Lazar] Greenfield, 78, was the editor in chief of Surgery News when the editorial was published but resigned that position in the wake of the controversy; the entire issue of the newspaper was withdrawn. He is an emeritus professor of surgery at the University of Michigan School of Medicine.
The editorial cited research that found that female college students who had had unprotected sex were less depressed than those whose partners used condoms. It speculated that compounds in semen have antidepressant effects.
“So there’s a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected, and now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates,” it concluded.
The editorial outraged many women in the field, some of whom said that it reflected a macho culture in surgery that needed to change.
Yesterday, Yale alumni received from Richard Levin, Yale’s smarmy and unctuous current president, the following letter connected with the Title IX Civil Rights complaint made by 16 students and alumni associated with the Yale Womens’ Center.
April 15, 2011
Dear Graduates and Friends of Yale,
As you may know, Yale was recently informed by the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education that it will be investigating a complaint made by a group of current students and graduates alleging that the University is in violation of Title IX of the Higher Education Act. Title IX mandates that no one be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any federally supported education program on the basis of sex. We have not yet received a copy of the complaint, and the notification from the Office of Civil Rights does not provide details. We believe that the investigation will focus on Yale’s policies and practices concerning sexual harassment and misconduct.
It is imperative that the climate at Yale be free of sexual harassment and misconduct of any kind. The well being of our students and the entire community requires this. Should transgressions occur, they must be addressed expeditiously and appropriately.
We will cooperate fully with the Office of Civil Rights in their investigation, but the Officers, the Dean of Yale College, and I believe that we should not await the investigation before asking ourselves how we might improve the policies, practices, and procedures intended to protect members of our community. I write to describe some of the measures we are taking immediately.
I have appointed an external Advisory Committee on Campus Climate, chaired by Margaret H. Marshall ‘76JD, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts and a former Fellow of the Yale Corporation [famous for contriving to have heard, and writing the infamous opinion in, Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health which produced the ruling that the Commonwealth of Massachusett’s 1780 Constitution, adopted at a time in which sodomy was a capital offense, required Massachusetts to recognize Gay Marriage—JDZ]. The other members of the Committee are Seth P. Waxman ‘77JD, former Solicitor General of the United States and a partner at WilmerHale LLP; Kimberly Goff-Crews ‘83BA, ‘86JD, Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students at the University of Chicago; and Elizabeth (Libby) Smiley ’02BA, former president of the Yale College Council and a director at Barbary Coast Consulting in San Francisco.
I have asked the Committee for advice about how sexual harassment, violence or misconduct may be more effectively combated at Yale, and what additional steps the University might take to create a culture and community in which all of our students are safe and feel well supported. The Committee will spend time listening to members of our community about the situation as they live it and will make its own assessments. We have policies in place, and a number of recommendations developed during the last year are being implemented. Nevertheless, I am confident that there is more that we can do, and I am grateful to the members of the panel for contributing their time and wise counsel.
The Committee will advise me directly, and I will review its recommendations with the Yale Corporation after the report is completed early in the fall semester. After review by the Corporation, the Committee’s recommendations will be made public.
Even as the Committee does its work, I want to take advantage of the remaining weeks of this semester to ensure that student concerns are heard directly by the senior leadership of the University. I am grateful to the Women’s Center for initiating this week a series of dinners with students and administrators. Following this lead, I have asked senior administrators to join with masters and deans over a meal in every college dining hall and in Commons in Reading Period, during the days following Spring Fling when classes do not meet, and when I hope students will take the time to engage in a conversation about the campus climate and our policies governing sexual misconduct. These will be informal opportunities to engage with Deans Mary Miller and Marichal Gentry, Provost Peter Salovey, and Vice President Linda Lorimer, along with your master or dean. I have asked the Provost, Vice President, and Deans to report back to me on the suggestions for improvement that they receive and to share what they have learned with the external Committee as well.
I have also asked the Deans of the Graduate and Professional Schools to ensure that similar conversations occur in each school.
The deepest values of our institution compel us to take very seriously the issues raised by the complaint brought to the Office of Civil Rights. We welcome this opportunity to learn from our community and from best practices elsewhere to protect all who study and work here.
Those deepest values being sanctimony, cant, and conformity to fashion.
Glenn Reynolds (another Yale alumnus) observed with justifiable disgust:
[Y]ou used to be able to punish the sort of behavior complained of here on the ground that it violated general principles of decency and acceptable public behavior. But after a half-century or so of attacking even the notion of general principles of decency and acceptable public behavior — especially where sex is concerned! — that doesn’t work.
Universities have long told the larger culture that it must simply put up with whatever is said, however offensive, in the interest of free expression. Now we see more evidence that that was always a lie, a self-serving cover story that was really meant simply to protect speech that the larger culture didn’t want to hear, with no intention to protect speech that people at universities don’t want to hear. Universities, meanwhile, have become some of the most hostile environments for free speech anywhere in America.
Two years ago, the walls of the Yale Women’s Center bore paintings of female genitalia.
The artwork, abstract representations board members made of their own vaginas, was meant to welcome visitors to the Women’s Center, said Isabel Polon ’11, a former political action coordinator for the center.
“What’s more inviting than a vagina?” she said.
In the New York Post, Meghan Clyne finds all the whining about off-color sexual taunts pretty thick coming from the same feminist gang that has made disseminating smut around the Yale campus its principal métier for years.
Drawing the loudest outcry are a 2006 episode in which frat pledges chanted, “No means yes! Yes means anal!” in front of the Yale Women’s Center (a refrain they reprised in 2009), and a 2008 stunt in which frat members posed for a photo in front of the center with a sign proclaiming “We love Yale sluts.”
But before you shed a tear for Yale or its feminists, consider the role that both have played in saturating the campus with vulgar sexuality. In an effort to foster “dialogue” and “acceptance” of every possible sexual choice or act, they’ve drenched students, faculty and administrators in images and vocabulary of graphic sexuality.
The Women’s Center has hosted screenings of lesbian pornography, workshops on drag and talks about “sex toys and how to get the most out of them.” In 2006, the event “Who’s on Top” was intended to address lack of “discussion about the act of penetrative sex itself” and to explore feminist Andrea Dworkin’s theory “that intercourse and patriarchy are inseparable.” The center even throws naked parties to boost Yale women’s sense of body image.
These are the shrinking violets shocked that a bunch of frat guys would gather around their front door crassly chanting about sex.
Those chants were disgusting, of course. But when every taboo around sex is systematically eradicated, aren’t cries of “We Love Yale Sluts” inevitable?
Wendy Kaminer comments on the Department of Education’s witch hunt in search of hostile atmosphere creators at Yale.
What accounts for such feminine timidity, this instinctive unwillingness or inability to talk or taunt back, without seeking the protection of university or government bureaucrats? Talking is apparently beside the point. “I just want to be able to walk back to my dorm at night without hearing all this crazy stuff from these guys,” one student complains. I sympathize (I was a young woman once, too), but “hearing crazy stuff” from people in public is part of life in a free society, a society in which you enjoy equal rights to say crazy stuff.
Putatively progressive feminists might agree, if only they regarded women as equal to the task of talking back, if only they distinguished between men who “say stuff” about women and men who “do stuff” to women. In the feminist view reflected in the Yale draft complaint, the misogynist rants of some undergraduate men (perhaps a relatively small percentage of them) is not speech. It’s a series of “dangerous,” “sex-discriminatory threats” that “intimidate” and “terrorize” women, constituting a hostile environment (or “rape culture”) that causes sexual violence.
That simplistic, practically hysterical anti-libertarian approach to offensive speech appears to be shared by the Obama administration. OCR [Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights] has initiated an investigation of alleged civil-rights violations at Yale, and, coincidentally, on April 4th, it issued a “Dear Colleague” letter to schools, colleges, and universities nationwide, clarifying their obligations to prevent and address sexual harassment. OCR’s letter conflates harassment and rape. It defines sexual harassment as “including” sexual violence and ignores the conflicts between sexual harassment regulations and free speech, or, in public schools, the constitutional limits on regulating “offensive” speech. Given OCR’s expansive and potentially repressive approach to punishing and preventing “bullying,” it’s not surprising but still distressing to find no concern for speech in its letter on harassment.
The only nod to civil liberty in OCR’s letter is a reminder that students accused of sexual harassment (including sexual violence) should be accorded due process. Indeed, “(p)ublic and state-supported schools must provide due process to the alleged perpetrator”—but not too much due process, it seems: “However, schools should ensure that steps taken to accord due process rights to the alleged perpetrator do not restrict or unnecessarily delay the Title IX protections for the complainant.” This suggests, oddly and ominously, that the statutory rights of the accuser trump the constitutional due-process rights of the accused.
Generally, the OCR 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.
Campus investigations and hearings involving harassment or rape charges are notoriously devoid of concern for the rights of students accused; “kangaroo courts” are common, and OCR ’s letter seems unlikely to remedy them. Students accused of harassment should not be allowed to confront (or directly question) their accusers, according to OCR, because cross-examination of a complainant “may be traumatic or intimidating.” (Again, elevating the feelings of a complainant over the rights of an alleged perpetrator, who may have been falsely accused, reflects a presumption of guilt.) Students may be represented by counsel in disciplinary proceedings, at the discretion of the school, but counsel is not required, even when students risk being found guilty of sexual assaults (felonies pursuant to state penal laws) under permissive standards of proof used in civil cases, standards mandated by OCR.
I don’t know the ages of Obama’s OCR appointees, but they seem to be operating under the influence of the repressive disregard for civil liberty that began taking over American campuses nearly 20 years ago. As FIRE President Greg Lukianoff remarks, students have been “unlearning liberty.” Concern about social equality and the unexamined belief that it requires legal protections for the feelings of presumptively vulnerable or disadvantaged students who are considered incapable of protecting themselves has generated not just obliviousness to liberty but a palpable hostility to it.
The Left simply invokes a simplistic kind of sophistry to re-define speech it doesn’t like as an aggressive act and to transform disapproval and displeasure at oppositional mocking speech into victimization.
“Those DEKE and Zeta Psi initiations dared to ridicule our self-important ideology of victimization, and that created ‘a hostile atmosphere’ preventing us from feeling equal, and that should be a federal offense.”
The claim being made here is arrant nonsense, which any rational adult should recognize immediately, but American society has not been headed by rational adults since at least the 1960s.