The Council of the Princeton University Community voted on Monday to gut due process for students accused of sexual misconduct. The week before last it was the turn of the faculty to genuflect as the hearse bearing the remains of due process rolled past. This unsavory episode highlights two parlous issues. First, there is the problem of sexual misconduct on campus, which was always at unacceptable levels and appears to be getting worse. Second, there is the dangerous license federal agencies have to rewrite law.
Albert Einstein defined insanity as repeatedly doing the same thing while expecting different results. Attributing changing results to an unchanging policy seems likewise off kilter. Yet until two or three years ago the protocol for adjudicating cases of alleged sexual misconduct by students at Princeton had remained unchanged for decades, not exactly a strong basis on which to conclude that due process for the accused provoked an increase in sexual assaults over those same decades.
There is no paucity of options for improving the campus environment. Alcohol often figures prominently in cases of sexual misconduct; inebriated men and women are more vulnerable to being sexually assaulted, and sexual predators are more reckless when under the influence of alcohol. This in no way lessens the liability of the perpetrator, any more than would the absence of street lights or a the lack of a nearby police officer, but as with improved lighting and increased patrolling of high risk locations, a sterner approach to alcohol consumption would likely produce appreciable reductions in sexual misconduct. Other areas for possible improvement exist: in many places campus culture takes a flippant attitude toward sexual intimacy, creating ideal camouflage for sexual predators. Without violating anyone's freedoms universities could create a more respectful atmosphere for the young adults who come to their campuses to study. Alas, the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education (OCR) has instead prioritized the elimination of due process. This will do nothing to alleviate the problem of sexual misconduct, while at the same time it will trammel the lives of students who will now confront a Kafkaesque disciplinary process whose tentacles will ensnare more than a few perfectly innocent men and women.
What of the process by which the new restrictions on freedom just approved by the Princeton faculty have come forward? The new policies are the craven but predictable response of university administrators to pressure from the OCR to curtail due process. Moreover, this neo-Orwellian approach to discipline is by no means confined to the environs of Old Nassau. OCR is actively pressuring dozens of universities to eviscerate due process on their campuses, and they have met with little more resistance than they did at Princeton, where but a handful of the faculty demurred.
Why is this happening? Revisiting Title IX of the civil rights act of 1964 (Title IX) and the Violence against Women Act (VAWA), the OCR has announced their new interpretation of these laws as (i) requiring university disciplinary procedures to extinguish any presumption of innocence in cases of alleged sexual misconduct, and (ii) allowing double jeopardy in cases of acquittal. The OCR has also let it be known that it dislikes the presence of trained students in the process for adjudicating cases of alleged misconduct, while it would like universities to include lawyers in the process, but only as advisers and not as advocates, and it is quiet on the subject of what to do about students who cannot afford legal counsel. This highhanded approach to regulation is hardly unique to OCR. Regulatory agencies routinely exercise, and occasionally abuse, considerable discretion in writing regulations to implement legislation, in some cases drawing on statutes passed decades ago. Moreover, they enjoy substantial deference from the courts in their interpretation of the law.
In this particular case universities have little room to maneuver in the face of the noxious replacement of due process with double jeopardy. OCR has been brutally clear about where it stands, and it can expect a judicial stamp of approval. A recent Wall Street Journal article on this subject suggests that Princeton forgo some government funding and draw down its endowment instead. Matters are not quite so simple—though the willingness of the Wall Street Journal to spend someone else's endowment is appreciated.
Florida Polytechnic “University” (it isn’t accredited) is making headlines this week by opening a bookless library. Instead of checking out traditional codex books, students will be forced to read class material on tablets, e-readers, and/or laptops. According to the middle-aged librarians and bureaucrats who run the school, a bookless library will appeal to the youth.
Islamic State terrorists, formerly known as ISIS, have killed at least 500 members of Iraq’s Yezidi religious minority in and around the city of Sinjar and taken hundreds of women as slaves. Some of the victims were buried alive. Their only crime: not being Muslims.
In an interview with President Bush's daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, President Obama said that "a lot of young men of color aren't doing well." He also talked about his own childhood, growing up without his father in his life.
This week the Factual Feminist takes on the “rape culture” panic that is riling college campuses with help from the media, radical feminists, and too many politicians. Just as in the shameful panic over alleged child abuse at day care centers that sent innocent people to prison in the 1980s, false statistics, mob tactics at public meetings, and disregard for the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” hold sway among today’s accusers.
Richard V. Reeves has written in The Atlantic a confident and illuminating account of the state of marriage in America today. College-educated American men and women “are reinventing marriage as a child-rearing machine for a post-feminist society and a knowledge economy.” On this front, the Americans have once again shown their superiority to the Europeans, who, in their socially self-destructive way, remain ambivalent at best about the value of being married. But a European might respond that only an American could be content with such a self-consciously mechanical view of a relational institution. It’s easy to hear the French man Alexis de Tocqueville laughing between the lines of his deadpan description of American men describing marriage in terms of “self-interest rightly understood.”
Harold Ramis died on Monday morning. Having written, directed (or written and directed) five of the funniest movies of the last 40 years, I think it's safe to put him on the short list for Funniest Guy of His Generation.
In an article published a couple days ago, Time magazine endorses "Polyandry," which Merriam-Webster defines as "the state or practice of having more than one husband or male mate at one time."
"It Makes Economic Sense for a Woman to Have More Than One Husband," reads the article's headline. The sub-headline reads, "By pooling male resources, polyandry improves household incomes and combats child poverty."
Amiri Baraka, New Jersey’s controversial one-time poet laureate, died yesterday, aged 79. The poet, essayist, and playwright’s body of work will be remembered, if at all, as among the least humane in the history of American letters. An early 9/11 denier—a notorious 2002 poem suggested Jews were responsible for the attacks—Baraka embraced many of the last century’s worst ideologies.
The federal agency that oversees the Voice of America is seeking someone to produce a TV entertainment show to be broadcast in Iran in the Farsi language that includes "Hollywood news" and "other interesting aspects of life on the West Coast of the United States." The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), whose board members include Secretary of State John Kerry, is
While everyone else has spent the last few days obsessing about Gravity, the government shutdown, and the real possibility that the NFC East division champ will have six wins, it’s quietly been an interesting week for sociology nerds who think about marriage.
Big deal on Drudge yesterday about WWE wrestler Darren Young possibly breaking kayfabe and coming out to TMZ. (Although the timing of this suggests at least the possibility that this is a work and not a shoot.) Whatever. It’s been months since Jason Collins and the media is thrilled.
The Supreme Court’s rulings on gay marriage effectively leave the issue very much alive in state and national politics. The four justices appointed by Presidents Clinton and Obama clearly would declare a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in a heartbeat, if they were to get a fifth vote.
The website Jewish Ideas Daily has been, for quite some while, a star of the web, featuring interesting original material as well as links to other worthwhile writing embodying a lively, serious, and committed approach to Jewish issues and ideas. Today, Jewish Ideas Daily has re-launched as Mosaic.