The Blog

Guilty Until Proven Innocent at Duke

Sexual "misconduct" rules are rejiggered to deny due process and presume the guilt of white men.

4:27 PM, Jan 7, 2010 • By EMILY ESFAHANI SMITH
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

A few years ago—as you probably remember—Duke University received a lot of bad publicity when a group of lacrosse players were (falsely, as it turned out) accused of brutally gang-raping a black stripper in Durham, North Carolina. Today, with the recent changes in the school's sexual misconduct policy, that spirit lives on.

Back then, political correctness won the day when 88 Duke faculty members and activists seized on the opportunity to accuse the lacrosse players of sexism, racism, and rape.

Then, the lacrosse players were vindicated—if forever stigmatized—and the faculty members at the university, and the entire PC organ that they fuel and are fueled by, were publicly disgraced, though you wouldn’t know it at Duke. The faculty members did not apologize, nor were they dismissed—some, in fact, went on to find jobs at other illustrious institutions, like Cornell and the University of Chicago.

Three years later, as National Journal’s Stuart Taylor reports, Duke hasn’t learned its lesson. The school's recent revisions to its sexual assault disciplinary policy almost ensure further false accusations of guilt, like those in the infamous lacrosse-rape case, where the boys were guilty until proven innocent.

Stuart explains the changes in the disciplinary policy:

Duke's rules define sexual misconduct so broadly and vaguely as to include any sexual activity without explicit "verbal or nonverbal" consent, which must be so "clear" as to dispel "real or perceived power differentials between individuals [that] may create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion."

The disciplinary rules deny the accused any right to have an attorney at the hearing panel or to confront his accuser. The rules also give her -- but not him -- the right to be treated with "sensitivity"; to make opening and closing statements; and to receive copies of investigative documents.

The revised policy, among other things, shows that Duke is still in the grip of the same biases, indifference to evidence, and de facto presumption of guilt that led so many professors and administrators to smear innocent lacrosse players as rapists (and as racists) for many months in 2006 and 2007.

The New Criterion sums it up best:

Such a cavalier attitude towards due process and the rule of law is not confined to academia. It is characteristic of the self-infatuated culture of political correctness in which the presumption of virtue is held to trump the requirements of “merely formal” law. It makes a mockery not only of intellectual probity—supposedly an academic desideratum—but also of justice.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers