Queen-of-Hearts Justice: Campus Rape Campaign Increasingly Devoid of Fairness or Logic


May 20, 2016

Remember the Queen of Hearts’ famous edict, “Sentence first, verdict afterwards”? Have campus sexual assault proceedings reached the same level of absurdity?

Last week the case of Grant Neal made headlines. A pre-med major and athlete at Colorado State University at Pueblo, he and another student fell into an amorous relationship that culminated in a consensual sexual liaison. But afterwards her classmates noticed a hickey on the woman’s neck, and reported him to campus officials. Later, the two had intercourse for a second time.

The woman later insisted to school officials, “I’m fine and I wasn’t raped.” Even though there was no rape, no victim, and no complaint made by the woman, he was soon suspended. Neal has now filed a lawsuit.

How Did We Get to This Point?

The campus sexual assault debate has become increasingly unmoored from any sense of reality. These are the steps how we got to the current point of absurdity:

  1. Dramatically Expand Definitions: The Supreme Court defined sexual harassment as conduct that is “pervasive, severe, and objectively offensive.” But the federal Office for Civil Rights expanded this definition to include any conduct that is “pervasive, severe, OR subjectively offensive.” Now everything from off-color jokes to rape has been swept into the broad category of sexual harassment. When you dilute definitions, you end up diluting the services available for those persons who most need our help.
  1. Do Campus Surveys: Using these expanded definitions, campus surveys were undertaken that inquire about “unwanted” or “unwelcome” sexual contacts. Not surprisingly, the surveys showed one in five women were sexual assault victims. To accept that figure, we would have to believe that the typical college campus is more dangerous to women than inner-city Detroit or war-torn Africa.
  2. Engender Fear: Using these inflated statistics, campus activists began to darkly warn about “rape culture,” implying that rape is commonplace and widely condoned in our country. Such rape myths served to promote fear and even hysteria.
  1. Ignore Due Process: Using unreliable statistics and claims of “rape culture,” activists demanded that lawmakers “do something” to stop campus sexual assault…even if these harsh measures removed due process rights. The activists went so far as to refer to complainants as “victims” or “survivors,” even after the adjudication process found the accused to be innocent of wrong-doing.
  1. Bias the Investigation: Many colleges now rely on”victim-centered investigations,” an approach that presumes a crime has occurred, even before the investigation is launched, and removes any pretense of impartiality.
  2. Propose Solutions that Don’t Solve Anything: Curbing campus sexual assault will require common-sense measures such as beefing up campus security, reducing binge drinking, and mandating police involvement in these cases. But take a close look at the leading bills in Congress. You guessed it, a complete disconnect from common-sense!

Out of the Rabbit Hole, At Last

This week a group of professors from leading law schools – Harvard, Penn, Stanford, George Washington, and others – did a long-overdue reality check. They released an Open Letter that among other things, urged that the OCR to replace its “overly broad harassment definition with a narrower formulation. The law professors’ Open Letter can be viewed HERE.

Like a breath of fresh air.