Of course they are! Under our legal system, any accused individual has the right to due process under the law. Unfortunately, accusations of rape or sexual assault on campus are now being adjudicated by boards of discipline under vague definitions and loose evidentiary standards. The mere claim of an alleged victim is sometimes treated as sufficient evidence to obtain a verdict, which could include the loss of scholarship funds or expulsion. Ideally, any allegation of this kind serious enough to be a crime should be referred immediately to law enforcement authorities. Punitive action by the school under these circumstances, without high standards of evidence, should be deferred until the allegations are resolved through the courts.
Rape is a horrid crime. Far less horrid is this: get drunk, hook-up, awaken with strong regret, allege sexual assault. But while this doesn’t approach the horror of rape, weak allegations of this kind are not as uncommon as they should be. George Will’s recent column on campus sexual assault raised ire in some circles primarily because of one sentence: “Colleges and universities …are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous … and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.” HuffPo reacted to Will’s column with this damning piece. Today, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch announced that it is replacing Will’s twice-a-week column with one written by Michael Gerson, thus far the only major daily newspaper to cancel Will’s column.
Will’s use of the phrase “coveted status” was possibly an ill-fated attempt to connect the ease with which a false accusation can be affirmed by a campus kangaroo court and the achievement of credibility within radical feminist circles. He’d have done better to say that on campus, females may have a privileged status if only because males they may accuse of sexual assault are likely to be denied due process. Privileged? Probably just a one-shot deal. David Bernstein covers some related nuances regarding privilege on campus.
Professor Michael Jacobson discusses Will’s column and some of the legal implications of new “definitions” of sexual assault, due process and victimhood being propagated. Christopher Paslay has some pointed comments about the left’s distorted views on certain aspects of the debate.