Mar 272015

Ex-Chicago State Admin: I Was Pressured to File False Harassment Claim against Faculty Critic

March 20, 2015

CHICAGO, March 20, 2015—A former high-level administrator at Chicago State University alleged in a statement filed yesterday in federal court that Chicago State President Wayne Watson pressured her to file a false sexual harassment complaint against Professor Philip Beverly, an outspoken faculty critic of Watson’s administration.

According to the declaration of former Chicago State Vice President for Enrollment Management LaShondra Peebles, Watson was determined to silence Beverly by shutting down the blog, CSU Faculty Voice, which Beverly had founded. Contributors routinely posted documents that supported their allegations of mismanagement by the administration.

After pretextual accusations of trademark infringement failed to intimidate the professors into shutting down their blog, Chicago State hastily adopted a far-reaching cyberbullying policy on May 9, 2014. Ms. Peebles’s declaration alleges that the policy was expressly designed to silence CSU Faculty Voice. In fact, shortly after the Board of Trustees passed the new policy, administrators used it to investigate Professor Robert Bionaz, another blog contributor, for harassment. The investigation was based, inexplicably, on a face-to-face conversation he had with Chicago State’s spokesman.

Watson’s series of actions eventually prompted Beverly and Bionaz to file a First Amendment lawsuit against Watson and others in July 2014. The suit was filed with support from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) as part of its Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project.

“The Chicago State administration has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to go to remarkable lengths to suppress dissent on campus,” said FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff. “Between the bogus accusations of trademark infringement, the misuse of university policy, and now new revelations that staff were perhaps pressured to file false harassment complaints, the court should take these allegations very seriously. Chicago State’s repeated attempts to shred the Constitution must end.”

Watson’s campaign against Beverly and Bionaz led the professors to ask the court to prohibit Chicago State from enforcing its unconstitutional policies against them while the case is pending. Peebles’s declaration further demonstrates that their request to the court to take immediate action is fully justified.

Peebles was fired on June 2, 2014. On February 18, 2015, she sued Watson and the Chicago State Board of Trustees for wrongful termination under Illinois’s State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, alleging in part that she was fired for refusing to file the false sexual harassment complaint against Beverly.

In February, Chicago State President Wayne Watson unexpectedly announced that he will retire next year when his contract expires.

FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, due process, and freedom of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at


Nico Perrino, Associate Director of Communications, FIRE: 215-717-3473;

Schools: Chicago State University
Cases: FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project Chicago State University – Stand Up For Speech


Mar 272015

Film ‘The Hunting Ground’ Misrepresents Harvard Sexual Assault Statistics

Ivan Levingston
March 26, 2015

“The Hunting Ground,” a documentary that scrutinizes how sexual assault is handled on college campuses and heavily features Harvard, misrepresents statistics on instances of reported sexual assault at Harvard, calling the rigor of the film’s fact-checking process into question.

The film, which opened in Boston on March 13, chronicles what it describes as the “epidemic” of sexual assault at schools including Harvard. Opening with a sequence of video clips showing prospective students gleefully learning of their college acceptances, the film presents a stark contrast between the excitement students feel when they enter college and what it depicts as the dangerous climate that awaits them there.

The film focuses heavily on the testimony of victims of sexual assault and what they say was a lackluster response from administrators at their respective schools. A former Harvard Law School student describes her experience reporting an assault, and former Harvard associate professor Kimberly Theidon—who is currently suing the University for allegedly denying her tenure in response to her advocacy on behalf of sexual assault victims—is also interviewed. “The Hunting Ground” is largely critical of Harvard, which was one of the main schools chronicled in the film.

The project aimed to draw attention to the issue and create “activity for change,” according to Kirby Dick, the film’s writer and director whose previous work has been nominated for an Academy Award. Since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, the film has drawn national attention and received a number of favorable reviews. A New York Times review called the film a “must-watch work of cine-activism, one that should be seen by anyone headed to college and by those already on campus.” The Boston Globe gave it three and a half stars.

The film, however, presents at least some information about Harvard inaccurately.

In one sequence, a series of slides lists various schools and the number of sexual assaults reported there in a given time period compared to the number that led to expulsion. The film lists that from 2009-2013, Harvard College saw 135 cases of reported sexual assault, but only 10 expulsions.

Those numbers are misleading. According to Dick, filmmakers arrived at the 135 number through criminal statistics made public by Harvard as required by the Clery Act, but, contrary to what the film states, those numbers do not necessarily represent only incidents at Harvard College. The Clery Act statistics available specify on which campus at Harvard various crimes occurred, and whether they happened in a campus, residential, off-campus, or public setting, but they do not break down offenses by individual school.

Harvard College has roughly 6,400 students, while Harvard University as a whole includes about 20,000.

According to Dick, filmmakers based its report that Harvard College saw 10 expulsions for sexual assault in this time period on case statistics published on the website of the College’s Administrative Board, which hands down sanctions in sexual assault cases. According to five-year statistics that are currently available online, the Ad Board required 10 students to withdraw from the College between the fall of 2009 and the spring of 2014 in disciplinary cases under the general category of “social behavior – sexual.”

Those students, however, were not necessarily expelled, but rather required to leave the College temporarily with the possibility of readmittance. In fact, the Ad Board cannot expel students. Only a vote of the Faculty Council can, and it happens rarely.

Furthermore, cases listed under the broad “social behavior – sexual” category are not necessarily sexual assault cases; the case statistics are not so specific.

Dick, for his part, acknowledged the numbers’ lack of specificity in an email. “Since Harvard College is not transparent about its number of sexual assaults or their adjudications, these are the available numbers that Harvard reports that convey the extreme gap between the number of assaults and number of severe sanctions,” Dick wrote.

The statistics are not the only misleading part of the film. The sequence with students’ reactions to their college acceptances includes at least one short clip that is fake, taken from a prank video posted to YouTube last year purporting to feature a student vomiting after learning of her Harvard acceptance.

The student in the film, Nicole C. Hirschhorn ’16, was a sophomore at Harvard when she acted out the scene for campus comedy group On Harvard Time. After viewing that segment of the film, she confirmed that the clip in “The Hunting Ground” is from the prank video. She called the video “definitely fake.”

The short clip is included in the film with no indication that it is not authentic. Darren DeLuca, a publicist representing Dick, did not respond to a request for comment on the film’s fact-checking process or the YouTube video.

But when asked whether the film was meant to be a “truthful, journalistic documentary take on the issue,” Dick said, “Yes, absolutely.”

Media experts interviewed said films billed as documentaries must pass a high bar for accuracy. Speaking generally about documentaries but not specifically about “The Hunting Ground,” Alex S. Jones, the director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard, said if a film “call[s] itself a documentary, it has to be the truth—otherwise it’s advocacy or propaganda; it’s not a documentary.”

“I would hold them to exactly the same standard as I would an article in The New York Times,” said Jones, who previously worked for the Times as a journalist.

Former Dean of Columbia Journalism School Nicholas Lemann, for his part, suggested that factual inaccuracies undercut the credibility of a documentary film. “Just on moral grounds and on practical grounds, you’re trying to build trust,” Lemann said. “Once you get something wrong, it’s very hard to stand your ground and say, ‘But everything else is right.’”

Still, others suggest that the film accurately portrays the experiences of students on college campuses. Colby Bruno, the senior legal counsel at the Victim Rights Law Center who appears in the film, said the film accurately portrays what she has found in her own work with survivors of sexual assault. Filmmakers contacted her about the project almost two years ago, she said, and spoke with her for at least eight hours.

“I think that they did a great job representing victims and representing the typical response from a college,” Bruno said, adding that she has seen an outpouring of support since the film’s release.

“The impact that it’s having on people is that they want to act after they see this movie, and that, I think, is going to be the film’s legacy,” Bruno said.

Still, the film has also drawn criticism from at least one university official, Florida State University President John Thrasher, who said his school was not given an adequate amount of time to respond. Dick said he believes that filmmakers reached out to University President Drew G. Faust “at least a couple of months before we finally locked picture.”

University spokesperson Jeff Neal wrote in an email that the President’s Office received a generic interview request in late November 2014. Faust declined to comment, and filmmakers were informed of that decision on Dec. 15, according to Neal. The film screened at Sundance in January.

Harvard College is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for allegedly violating anti-sex discrimination law Title IX. Harvard Law School entered a resolution agreement with the government after it was found in violation of the law in December.


Mar 272015

‘The Hunting Ground': Reaping Profit from Rape Hysteria

Wendy McElroy
March 26, 2015

When the ‘documentary’ “The Hunting Ground” premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, it was advertised as a “piercing, monumental exposé of rape culture on campuses.” In fact, its objectivity and perspective have been systematically dismantled since then. The film is best understood as a volley in the campus consent wars now raging across North America. It is part of a manufactured and coordinated hysteria about campus rape that imposes a politically-correct agenda and strips accused male students of due process rights.

Peel back the panic and you will often find profit. Some PC advocates profit from the power and prestige that being a savior can bring. The New York Times article “An Unblinking Look at Sexual Assaults on Campus: ‘The Hunting Ground,’ a Film About Rape Culture at Colleges” (Jan. 25, 2015) quoted the Democrat Senator from California, Barbara Boxer, as declaring “[Y]ou’re going to see it in response to this film. Believe me, there will be fallout.” The article indicated that Boxer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are pushing legislation that could ride into law on a wave of emotion created by “The Hunting Ground.”

Political careers, administrative jobs, government grants, book and lecture contracts are just some of vast financial benefits that rest upon continuing the “rape culture” crusade on campus.

The Hunting Ground offers a rare glimpse into what may be a subtle “other financial benefit.” The profit is not likely to come from box office magic. As of March 19, the revenue tracking site Box Office Mojo ranked the film at 60th in current ticket sales, with a total take of only $95,783 after a three-week run. Of course, the $500 licensing fee paid by each campus that runs the ‘documentary’ will soften the blow. The ‘documentary’ will be considered to be almost mandatory for screening on thousands of campuses; it will be immediately sponsored by Women’s Studies Departments and other ‘progressive’ voices.

What is the subtle profit? It arises at the end of the ‘documentary.’ After heart-breaking and rapid-fire accounts of rape on campus, which offer no mitigating perspective, viewers are exhorted to “Take Action!” The “Take Action” button on the left-hand side of “The Hunting Ground” website takes a visitor to a page that reads, “Donate. THE HUNTING GROUND is proud to partner with NEO Philanthropy to ensure that your tax-deductible donation supports student-led campaigns, public education, policy reform, and prevention approaches.”

NEO Philanthropy is a “transformative” foundation. Its media kit explains that NEO is “a national leader in innovative philanthropic solutions. We lead large-scale collaborative grantmaking funds on a range of social justice issues….to seek transformative social change.” The organization focuses on four areas: the Four Freedoms Fund to promote immigrant and refugee rights; the Just and Fair Schools Fund to address discipline and bullying problems in K-12; the State Infrastructure Fund to mobilize the public on social, political and community fairness; and the Sunrise Intiative for Human Rights in the U.S. to “respond to some of the most serious human rights crises in this country’s history.” There is no mention of rape or sexual assault. There appears to be no track record on these issues.

The NEO site lists the organization’s income for 2013 at $41,567,576 and its expenses at $38,578,027. Two income tax forms are disclosed – a 2012 and a 2013 Return of Organization Exempt for Income Tax. One of the expenses is explained; namely, the impressive salaries and other income benefits enjoyed by NEO officers. Two presidents are indicated. The 2012 form states that President Michele Lord received $272,269 over the year; President Berta Colon received $266,973, including over $90K from related organizations. The 2013 form states Lord received $251,769; Colon, $234,761. Five other officers listed made between $162,884 to $191,747 (p.63). More employees are introduced to visitors on the NEO site but their salaries are not disclosed.

The 2012 form discloses the many organizations that were funded by NEO along with the amounts disbursed (pp.29-53). The following are typical of the recipients listed under “Public Interest Projects”:

Alliance for Justice: $200,000

America Votes Education and Action: $655,000

National Council of La Raza: $500,000

Project Vote: $50,000

Rock the Vote: $380,000

Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition: $310,000

The Voter Participation Center: $275,000

Voto Latino: $200,000

Overall, the emphasis is on immigrant rights, implementing social justice goals and getting out the vote. It is a fair assumption that NEO does not promote Republican candidates or ballot issues.

The most remarkable aspect of the recipient list, however, is the apparent lack of any grants to groups that focus on preventing rape or sexual assault. The names of recipient organizations drive this conclusion. A single grant to Planned Parenthood is as close as NEO seems to come to funding sexual health or safety. And, yet, the “Take Action!” cry from “The Hunting Ground” states that NEO ensures “that your tax-deductible donation supports student-led campaigns, public education, policy reform, and prevention approaches.” Wouldn’t that goal best be ensured by an organization with an established track record on sexual assault? There are many of them out there.

The 2013 form is similar in its disclosed disbursements; no apparent grants go to organizations that address rape and sexual violence, let alone rape on campus. The vast majority of recipients reveal that NEO has an entirely different focus. Only a few recipients have sufficiently ambiguous names to allow the possibility that they deal with rape in some manner.

No wonder the iconoclastic website SAVE (Stop Abusive and Violent Environments) inquired after “the propriety” of “The Hunting Ground” being used to fund raise for NEO. SAVE asks, “exactly how much of movie-viewers’ donations will be used to underwrite Michele Lord’s excessive salary?” Or used by NEO to pursue partisan issues like immigrant rights? Or used by NEO to encourage people to vote Democrat?

Another question needs to be answered. If, in fact, NEO is using “The Hunting Ground” as a fund raiser, did NEO finance its development in any manner? Is there a connection between director Kirby Dick and NEO? The source of funding is difficult to uncover. Indeed, even how much the ‘documentary’ cost to make is something of a mystery. Mojo lists the budget for “The Hunting Ground” as “N/A.” Other sources claim it was $1.8 million.

The possibility of “The Hunting Ground” being a fund-raiser for social justice causes unrelated to rape is disturbing. The ‘documentary’ is emotionally jarring. The New York Times article notes, “At the premiere here on Friday, audience members repeatedly gasped as student after student spoke on camera about being sexually assaulted.” It leaves viewers in the sort of angry turmoil that not only drives legislation but also opens wallets. If the donations are going to a transformative grantmaker with priorities other than preventing rape on campus, then “The Hunting Ground” appears to exploit that issue and to do so for profit.


Mar 262015


Contact: Gina Lauterio


Lesson from the UVA Gang-Rape ‘Disaster:’ Due Process Must be Restored for Campus Sex Cases

WASHINGTON / March 26, 2015 – In the aftermath of the recent Charlottesville, Virginia police report of “no evidence” of an alleged gang-rape of “Jackie” during a University of Virginia fraternity party, commentators on all points of the political spectrum are deploring the harmful effects arising from the incident.

SAVE, a national organization working to end sexual assault, has compiled a listing of over 50 commentaries on the Rolling Stone allegations (1). These editorials abhor how the Rolling Stone story has exacerbated rape-hysteria on college campuses, contributed to the wrongful expulsion of innocent college men, injured the reputation of the University of Virginia, wasted scarce law enforcement resources, undermined basic notions of journalistic integrity, and damaged the credibility of women claiming to be victims of rape.

Phi Kappa Psi is currently exploring its legal options to address the damage caused by Rolling Stone. Fraternity president Stephen Scipione noted, “These false accusations have been extremely damaging to our entire organization, but we can only begin to imagine the setback this must have dealt to survivors of sexual assault.”

“For rape victims, the falsely accused, taxpayers, and for UVA administrators, the Rolling Stone piece has been an unmitigated disaster,” notes SAVE spokeswoman Sheryl Hutter. “If we’re going to prevent future rape-hoaxes, college administrators must begin to restore due process to the handling of campus sex allegations.”

A Washington Post report concluded the Rolling Stone account was “a complete crock…built on a mix of naivete and advocacy” (2).


Stop Abusive and Violent Environments is working to promote effective solutions to campus sexual assault:

Mar 242015

Campus Hypersensitivity — at Last a Push-Back

John Leo
March 24, 2015

A campus debate on sexual assault was too much for Emma Hall, a junior at Brown, She had to retreat to a “safe space” because “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs.” Exposure to ideas you don’t already have is problematic on the modern PC campus, as Judith Shulevitz explained Sunday in a New York Times article, “In College Hiding from Scary Ideas.” We are in the midst of a flurry of articles on the fear of ideas, the discomfort with disagreement and the infantilization of college students. Some of the articles are appearing in outlets that almost never tell readers about such things, such as the Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

In the Chronicle, Northwestern professor Laura Kipnis, discussing a ban on teacher-student sex, objects to campus codes that depict women as quivering and vulnerable in the face of male power. She writes: ‘’’what do we expect will become of students, successfully cocooned from uncomfortable feelings, once they leave the sanctuary of academe for the boorish badlands of real life?…The new codes sweeping American campuses aren’t just a striking abridgment of everyone’s freedom, they’re also intellectually embarrassing. Sexual paranoia reigns; students are trauma cases waiting to happen. If you wanted to produce a pacified, cowering citizenry, this would be the method.”

On the left, both Michelle Goldberg (the Nation) and Todd Gitlin (The Tablet) criticized the hypersensitivity movement. Gitlin wrote, “it’s hard to resist the thought that overwrought charges against the trigger-happy curriculum are outgrowths of fragility, or perceptions of fragility, or of fears of fragility running amok. “

On the FIRE website, Judith Kruth writes: ‘Jeremiah True, a student at Reed College in Portland, has reported that he was banned from his Humanities 110 classroom by Professor Pancho Savery because of statements he made about rape culture that made others in the class uncomfortable. In particular, True said he challenged the controversial statistic that one in five college women are victims of attempted or completed sexual assault.”

An anonymous article on Tumblr drew a lot of attention, arguing that teachers face a risk exposing liberal students to any complication or doubt. The author wrote:

‘Personally, liberal students scare the shit out of me. I know how to get conservative students to question their beliefs and confront awful truths, and I know that, should one of these conservative students make a Facebook page calling me a communist or else seek to formally protest my liberal lies, the university would have my back….The same cannot be said of liberal students. All it takes is one slip—not even an outright challenging of their beliefs, but even momentarily exposing them to any uncomfortable thought or imagery—and that’s it, your classroom is triggering, you are insensitive, kids are bringing mattresses to your office hours and there’s a twitter petition out demanding you chop off your hand in repentance.”

Discussing several of these articles, Walter Russell Mead wrote on the American Interest site:

“Our classrooms have become more and more like cocoons just as the real world has become harsher.” He said there is something even worse about this trend toward infantilization than the loss of free speech and liberty on campus: “the catastrophic dumbing down and weakening of a younger generation that is becoming too fragile and precious to exist in the current world—much less to fight the real evils and dangers that are growing.”


Mar 242015

UVA Fraternity Exploring Legal Options to Address ‘Extensive Damage Caused by Rolling Stone’

Katherine Faulders and Emily Shapiro
March 23, 2015

Phi Kappa Psi at the University of Virginia told ABC News today that the fraternity feels vindicated after Charlottesville, Virginia, police said their investigation found “no evidence” of an alleged rape at the fraternity house.

Stephen Scipione, president of the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, said in a statement, “These false accusations have been extremely damaging to our entire organization, but we can only begin to imagine the setback this must have dealt to survivors of sexual assault.”

He continued, “We hope that Rolling Stone’s actions do not discourage any survivors from coming forward to seek the justice they deserve.”

‘No Evidence’ to Back Up UVA Fraternity Rape Allegations, Police Investigation Finds
Rolling Stone Backtracks on Explosive UVA Rape Story, Issues Apology
Rolling Stone Controversy ‘Retraumatizing’ for Victim ‘Jackie': Attorney
Phi Psi has been working with the Charlottesville police throughout the investigation, the statement said.

“Following the publication of the defamatory article, the chapter launched an extensive internal investigation, which quickly confirmed that the horrific events described in the Rolling Stone article did not occur,” the statement said. “Both the Virginia Alpha chapter and Phi Psi’s national organization adhere to a strict zero tolerance policy in regards to sexual assault.”

Phi Psi said it is “exploring its legal options to address the extensive damage caused by Rolling Stone.”

The woman, identified as “Jackie,” alleged in a Rolling Stone article that she was gang-raped by seven men at a UVA Phi Psi fraternity party on Sept. 28, 2012.

But police said today they were not able to conclude that an incident occurred at Phi Psi that night.

Police said “we can’t say something didn’t happen” to her, but they have “no basis” to conclude anything happened at Phi Psi.

During the investigation, police talked to about 70 people, including Jackie’s friends and fraternity members, Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo said. Investigators talked to nine of the 11 Phi Psi members living in the house at the time, and none of them knew Jackie or had any knowledge of the alleged assault, Longo said, also noting that Jackie declined to be interviewed by police for the investigation.

Police also found no evidence that a party or event took place at Phi Psi on Sept. 28, 2012, noting that a time-stamped photo from that night shows the house practically empty, Longo said.

In January, a police investigation cleared Phi Psi of any involvement in the alleged rape and the fraternity was reinstated on campus.

Longo noted today that the case is not closed, but is suspended until they are able to gather more information.


Mar 242015

Avoid “Victim Blaming” in UVA Rape Story

Joseph Spector
March 24, 2015

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is pushing for stronger laws against rapes on college campuses, today warned against people criticizing the woman at the center of a University of Virginia sexual assault case.

Yesterday, police in Charlottesville said they were unable to verify that the alleged sexual assault occurred after a controversial Rolling Stone magazine article detailed the female student’s alleged ordeal in 2012 at a fraternity house.

The story has been full of discrepancies, as reports in the Washington Post and elsewhere found, and the magazine has since published an apology.

But Gillibrand said the ire over the case shouldn’t shift blame onto victims, who already have a hard time coming forward to authorities.

“Victim blaming or shining the spotlight on her for coming forward is not the right approach,” Gillibrand said on “The Capitol Pressroom,” a public radio show in Albany. “In fact, what we have to focus on is how do we keep these campuses safe? How do we have better trained personnel on campuses so they can tell a survivor what her options are and so they can have all the facts?”

Gillibrand said it would be wrong for some to call on the female student in the UVA scandal to face criminal charges.

“I think it’s inappropriate,” she said. “One of the challenges with survivors of sexual trauma and rape is that they often don’t want to actually participate with law enforcement because they don’t think justice is possible. They don’t think they will be believed; they think they’ll be blamed.”

Gillibrand said her Campus Accountability & Safety Act would provide better rights for victims and those accused of the crimes. She applauded Gov. Andrew Cuomo for a similar initiative, an “Enough is Enough” campaign.

“It’s not about any one case or any one investigation. It’s about a very serious problem that is taking place across campuses across the country,” she said.


Mar 242015

Student Accused of Sexual Assault: Like Being at the ‘Bottom of This Pit’

Ashe Schow
March 23, 2015

Joshua Strange was accused of sexual assault in 2011 by an ex-girlfriend and expelled from Auburn University. Since then, he’s told his story numerous times, but hasn’t really focused on the emotional toll the situation took on him.

Strange, speaking on a panel of due process advocates in March at the National Press Club, described what it felt like when his “world came crashing down.”

“When the accusation came across to me and [Auburn] told me about it, it was as if I had somehow wound up at the bottom of this pit,” Strange said. “And all around you is just darkness – it’s just completely black, except for the light of one match that’s in your hand and that match is burning.”

“And that’s all you can see. And it’s just you by yourself – cold, dark and alone,” he added. “You’re trying to figure out where to go next, and you’re trying to put one foot in front of the other, just trying to go day to day and make it through, and just somehow find the light at the end of the tunnel. And that’s how it went. That was the world that I lived in.”

One night in 2011, Strange and his girlfriend of a month were at his apartment when he claims she initiated a sexual encounter but shortly in began to say “no.” After he stopped and left the room, she called the police, who arrested Strange but released him a few hours later. Strange says his girlfriend apologized profusely for the episode and they continued dating for nearly two more months.

A month after they broke up, the now ex-girlfriend accused Strange of attacking her in a parking lot, although he says he had witnesses placing him miles away at the time.

Nevertheless, the girl had him arrested again, and this time she went to campus administrators to bring up the previous sexual encounter, now claiming that Strange raped her.

The accusation landed Strange in a campus hearing, where a Fisheries professor, a professor of liberal arts, a male student, a female student and a campus librarian decided his fate.

Strange described the room where his hearing took place as having a black sheet in the middle so his accuser couldn’t see him, so that he couldn’t “cause her any more distress,” he said.

“I remember walking into the room and just this black cloud, you know, as if it could get any darker than it already was. It got a lot darker really, really quick walking into that room,” Strange said. “And I just remember thinking this is not going to end well. This is not going to be good. This is going to hurt.”

Strange said he was so nervous he couldn’t even recall his own name, but was expected to defend himself from the accusation.

“It was basically next to impossible,” he said. Despite a grand jury failing to indict Strange in a criminal court, the Auburn University pseudo court found him in violation of the student code of conduct and recommended expulsion.

When the decision to expel him came down, Strange told his family he was no longer wanted at Auburn.

“When that expulsion was mentioned, it was as if something ran up and blew that match out,” Strange said. “Now it’s just you, in the dark, by yourself, not knowing which way’s up, down, left, right, where the door is, where the exit is, where the light is. That light didn’t exist anymore.”

After more than three years, Strange says he is “still trying to get over it.”

“It’s never going to go away. It’s always going to be a cross that I’m going have to bear,” he said. “It’s extremely painful.”

Strange told the Washington Examiner that he was able to graduate from the University of South Carolina-Upstate last May. Auburn had removed the expulsion from his transcript and had him listed as a student in good standing with the university.

Strange’s mother explained to the Examiner that she believes Auburn removed the expulsion notation because they learned the Stranges were looking for an attorney to sue the university and wanted to mitigate the damages. The family was unable to raise the money needed to pay for an attorney and was unable to file a lawsuit due to the statute of limitations. Strange is still forbidden to visit Auburn for fear of trespassing charges.

Auburn University did not respond to an Examiner request for comment prior to press time.

Since the original expulsion, Strange has spoken to numerous students who have found themselves in the same situation. Over 100 schools are being investigated by the Department of Education for failing to find in favor of the accuser. And about 60 male students are suing their universities for a lack of due process leading to their punishment.

“The hardest part of what I’m doing right now is having to say over the phone to someone: ‘Your life is getting ready to get this much harder,'” Strange said. “Your school is getting ready to reject you and you’re going to have to find a way to be okay with that.”

Strange was lucky that the expulsion note was removed from his transcript so that he could transfer to another school – most students in this situation aren’t so lucky.

Still, Strange has to live with this accusation and the years of his life it cost him, as well as the drain on his future earnings it has caused. One can’t Google his name without dozens of articles written about his case.

“It does start to get a little better but it will never be okay for the rest of my life,” Strange said.


Mar 232015

Cuomo Joins the No-Due-Process Club

KC Johnson

March 22, 2015

The politics of campus due process are most unusual. Since the emergence of crime as a major (federal) political issue in the 1960s, Republicans have tended to be the tough-on-crime party, Democrats more concerned with the rights of the accused, especially when the accused are poor or racial minorities. (Obviously there have been exceptions in the case of both parties.) But in the case of campus sexual assault, it’s been the Democrats—from President Obama on down, and especially including Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill—that have been the tough-on-crime advocates demanding the decimation of due process protections. Republicans have either been willing accomplices (Marco RubioChuck Grassley) or basically acquiescent (the House Republicans who have allowed the Office for Civil Rights to escape without meaningful oversight).

It remains to be seen how—or even if—Congress will further weaken students’ due process rights over the next two years. But the odd politics of campus due process means that students’ rights are particularly vulnerable in the nation’s most liberal states. California led the way, enacting an “affirmative consent” law that effectively replaced the presumption of innocence with the presumption of guilt. When asked how an accused student could defend himself under the law’s terms, the measure’s co-sponsor, Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), candidly replied, “Your guess is as good as mine.”

Cuomo and the Language of “Survivors”

Affirmative consent came to New York via an executive order from Andrew Cuomo. Now the Democratic governor seeks to codify the concept into law. Cuomo’s fiscal year 2016 executive budget contains a wholly non-budgetary provision—a plan to rewrite, by statute, the definition of sexual assault, though only when the state’s college students are accused through a campus disciplinary process. Cuomo seems intent on outdoing Assemblywoman Lowenthal for indifference to due process.

The most extraordinary provision of Cuomo’s proposal is a “victim and survivor bill of rights.” He is referring here not to students who filed a claim of sexual assault and saw their attacker convicted in a court of law—or even saw their alleged attacker found culpable through the OCR-mandated, due-process unfriendly system currently used at SUNY. No, according to Cuomo’s language, the mere filing of a sexual assault complaint on campus transforms the accuser into a “victim” or “survivor.”

Many of the provisions of the “bill of rights” are reasonable, even commendatory—except that Cuomo has decided that a person becomes a “survivor” before any adjudication takes place. For instance, the list of rights includes the right to “confidentially or anonymously disclose a crime or violation.” But alleging a “violation” of campus procedures is just that—an allegation—and the person making the allegation is an accuser or at most an “alleged victim.” Tellingly, Cuomo’s budget provisions do not once include the word “alleged.”

Then there’s right (e) of the proposed bill of rights: “Be free from any suggestion that the victim/survivor [sic, at this stage of the process] is at fault when these [alleged] crimes and [alleged] violations have occurred, or should have acted in a different manner to avoid such a crime.” A reminder: the central pretense of the campus adjudicatory process is that it deals exclusively with violations of student conduct policies, not with crimes, and therefore no meaningful due process is required. I suppose New Yorkers should be relieved that Cuomo has at least conceded that campus rape is a crime.

That said, imagine how an accused student could possibly defend himself, given that the accuser is to be given—as a matter of state law—right (e). Could he suggest that the accuser actually consented to the sexual intercourse? It appears not, since this line of defense would suggest the accuser was at least partially “at fault” for what occurred. Could he contend that the accuser simply lied? Again, it appears not, since this line of defense would suggest the accuser “should have acted in a different manner” (that is, the accuser should not have lied). It would seem that the only line of defense open to an accused student under right (e) would be to claim that someone else committed “such a crime.”

For someone who believes, as Cuomo apparently does, that the filing of a claim in and of itself transforms an accuser into a survivor, right (e) makes perfect sense. For those who believe in the presumption of innocence, however, the “right” is horrifying.

Defining Consent

The budget proposal seeks to codify “affirmative consent,” in odd ways. “Affirmative consent is a clear, unambiguous, knowing, informed, and voluntary agreement between all participants to engage in sexual activity [emphasis added].” The run-up to what percentage of consensual sexual encounters between college students can be described as “unambiguous”? What’s the difference between an “informed” and “uninformed” agreement? The vagueness of this language makes it almost impossible for an accused student to defend himself.

Cuomo also seeks to tell New York college students that “consent is active, not passive.” What is active consent? Can a student be deemed a rapist if a disciplinary panel concludes that the accuser only gave “passive” consent? What would passive consent look like? And how can a student distinguish between active and passive consent before engaging in intercourse? Cuomo offers no guidance.

Cuomo notes that incapacitation vitiates consent—a reasonable standard, until he redefines “incapacitation.” (Unlike the hopelessly vague “unambiguous” or “active” consent, the governor takes pains to define incapacitation.) “Incapacitation includes impairment due to drugs or alcohol [emphasis added],” according to the governor. By this standard, a substantial plurality, and perhaps a majority, of sexual intercourse between college students would constitute rape. Of course, the overwhelming percentage of such encounters won’t lead to rape charges. But that makes Cuomo’s new definition all the more arbitrary.

Due Process and Adjudication

Cuomo authorizes interim punishments before any investigation occurs. When the “accused” is a student, “victims and survivors” (again, note the improper juxtaposition of language—when the subject is just “accused” and not found culpable, there is no “victim” or “survivor,” only an alleged victim) have the right to demand a no-contact order. If the two students happen to encounter each other accidentally in a “public place” (the campus quad?), “it is the responsibility of the accused to leave the area immediately”; if he does not do so, he could be subject to additional punishments. More problematically, the budget says that an accused student can be subject “to an interim suspension pending the outcome of a conduct process,” provided a determination exists that he’s a threat to the “health and safety of the community.” How could any student accused of sexual assault not fit this broad definition? For all practical purposes, the budget calls for mandatory suspensions upon the filing of a claim. After all, the person who files the complaint is, without question, a “survivor.”

In the adjudicatory process, Cuomo seeks to ensure that all disciplinary panelists “receive annual training in conducting investigations of sexual violence.” Given the way in which this training has tended to make panelists more likely to find the accused culpable, it’s not surprising that Cuomo included it. (Imagine the outcry if Cuomo, during his tenure as state attorney general, had demanded that all jurors in rape trials receive special training that his office had prepared, designed to make it more likely they’d reach a guilty verdict.) The governor also calls for allowing accusers to testify by telephone or “with a room partition,” both of which seem to conflict with his guarantee of a “fair” process for the accused. In the criminal defense process, such provisions are regularly used only in cases of very small children; is this how Cuomo views college women in New York?

As part of this “fair” process, Cuomo also seeks to give the accuser the right to exclude “prior sexual history or past mental health history from admittance in the college disciplinary stage that determines responsibility.” No state has such a broad rape shield law, and for good reason. Imagine its application (taking an easy example) to the Duke lacrosse case. There, the prior sexual history of—in Cuomo’s language—“survivor” Crystal Mangum was vital to the defense, since it provided an explanation for the only “injury” that she allegedly suffered (diffuse edema of the vaginal walls). And if a trial had occurred, the contents of Mangum’s 1000-page mental health file would have been critical for the defense to explain her actions. But according to Cuomo, if Mangum made her allegations on a New York college campus—public or private—this vital exculpatory evidence would have been barred.

Despite the significant due process concerns that Cuomo’s proposals raise, there’s little indication that they will encounter much resistance from the Republicans who control the state Senate. A document prepared by the Senate majority staff criticizes other aspects of Cuomo’s executive budget, but appears to support the anti-due process provisions on grounds that they’ll create consistency at all New York schools. It also quotes (pp. 210-211) the “victim/survivor” language without any critical reaction.

Training All Students

Cuomo demands what he calls an “onboarding” campaign, in which new students (both first-year students and transfers) at all New York colleges will receive “training” on eight items related to his policy. This training will employ “multiple methods,” such as “peer theater” and—incredibly—“course syllabi,” raising academic freedom concerns. Beyond this generalized instruction, colleges will need to “provide specific training to members of groups identified as likely to engage in high-risk behavior.” Imagine the (appropriate) outcry from civil libertarians if certain types of New Yorkers were required to receive specific, government-mandated “training” based solely on their membership in a group, instead of on the basis of individual responsibility.

All of this activity will require a massive new bureaucracy—to conduct the training, to provide a variety of mandated reports, and to engage in “occasional assessment” of these new programs. The budget section contains no state aid to fund this bureaucracy.

Perhaps the only redeeming element of Cuomo’s proposal is a throw-away line that disciplinary proceedings are governed, “where applicable, [by] the due process provisions of the United States constitution.” How Cuomo’s policy can in any way be reconciled with the due process provisions of the Constitution the governor does not reveal.


Mar 232015

Rolling Stone to Publish Review of Disputed Rape Article

Ravi Somaiya
March 22, 2015

Rolling Stone magazine plans to publish an external review of a widely disputed article about a gang rape at the University of Virginia “in the next couple of weeks,” its managing editor, Will Dana, said on Sunday.

The 9,000-word article, which was published in November, was based on the account of a female student who described being sexually assaulted by seven men in a dark room during a fraternity house party.

The article quickly became part of a national debate over sexual assault on college campuses, and the university suspended the fraternity’s operations. But in early December, substantial portions of the article were called into question. Rolling Stone acknowledged that it had not sought to independently corroborate the woman’s account, and that it had doubts about the veracity of the story. Shortly afterward, it announced a review of the article would be led by Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

“Steve Coll has not filed yet, but I expect the report soon and the plan is to publish in the next couple of weeks,” Mr. Dana said in an email on Sunday. He has not read the report, he said, and does not know what it might say.

Mr. Coll said when the review was announced that the magazine had allowed him access to its staff and materials. The report will focus, he said, “on the editorial process,” but he added that it would also “have the freedom to move in any direction along the way that we believe would be germane and of public interest.”

News of the timing of the publication of the review was first reported by CNN.