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June 13, 2014

Harsh Words Provoke Harsh Reactions

Shocking, we know, but hardly surprising:

Commentators, feminist leaders, and even some lawmakers are blasting George Will for a recent column that they say trivializes sexual assault.

Will penned a column titled “Colleges become the victims of progressivism” over the weekend in the Washington Post. (The column also appeared at National Review Online and other publications). In the column, Will raises questions about the recent efforts by the Obama administration and Congress to address sexual assault on college campuses and the potential impact of fostering a victimhood mentality among students in other areas of academia as well.

Will’s most contested line is in the column’s first very paragraph: “[Colleges and universities] are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (‘micro-aggressions,’ often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate,” he writes.

For many moons, the Editorial Staff have blasted the feminist position that pretty much everything, from thinking Bad Thoughts to clumsy dating behavior to drunken hookups gone awry is "sexual assault".

But even we cringed - and not just a little bit - at the suggestion that young women who complain of having been sexually assaulted are doing so because it's just a pleasant, ego-enhancing thing to do.

This strikes us as an extraordinarily insensitive and cruel thing to say, and we're not at all surprised at the reaction it provoked. Mr. Will should not apologize for the arguments he made in his column. They are basically sound and it is heartening that the Washington Post is standing behind the value of discourse.

But Mr. Will is widely famed for his skill with words. In this case, as we all do at times, he was unnecessarily harsh and - we think - actually unjust. He cannot know the motives of any of these young women, and attributing the worst of motives to them adds little to the debate.

When one lobs rhetorical Molotov cocktails, return fire is perhaps not unsurprising. Sadly, the age-old maxim that a soft answer often turneth away wrath is now widely viewed as "political correctness".

It is nothing of the sort. It was - and always has been - good advice, even when dealing with the more unreasonable among us.

Posted by Cassandra at June 13, 2014 07:25 AM

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Comments

If he had phrased it this way, it would be a standard-issue principle: "You get more of what you reward."

Or: "Incentives matter."

Although, actually, that does sound like what he said. He didn't accuse any given person of anything. He just said that, when you make this a status that has rewards, 'victims proliferate.'

The question I would ask isn't whether the principle he cited is bad -- it seems to be a general truth about human beings, well beyond and outside of the question of sexual assault. The question I would ask is whether or not there are actually rewards to being a 'victim,' allegedly or otherwise. My sense is that he may be wrong about that aspect -- it isn't at all clear to me that it's helpful to a young woman's career to raise charges of sexual harassment or assault against professors, especially.

Posted by: Grim at June 13, 2014 09:52 AM

In many ways "Victim Status" is a thing to be desired these days. It gives one political clout.

All the evidence you need is to see how strongly just about every demographic competes for it. To the point that we get "More victim than thou" contests.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 13, 2014 09:58 AM

There seems to be an advantage to belonging to a group that is thought of as vulnerable -- that you can leverage to get special protections (or for intimidation value).

But being an actual victim doesn't seem to me to convey additional advantages. It tends to make you a focus of backlash. The women I've known who've actually raised charges have generally left the institutions not long after. The environment -- among both men and women -- tends to become hostile, just as human groups in general tend to expel those who complain about the power structure rather than embracing their place in it.

Posted by: Grim at June 13, 2014 10:02 AM

Oh, absolutely. The value is in *appearing* as a victim. Not in actually being one.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 13, 2014 10:14 AM

This is why being a "victim" of "elevator eyes" has proliferated into "rape culture".

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 13, 2014 10:16 AM

Will was entirely correct in his remonstrations. Any society that would micro-manage reciprocating humans down to their irreducible parts, as the concept of micro-aggression has been distilled to do, is rightly subject to same – tit for tat, measure for measure, micro for micro. Brave New World for all.

Posted by: George Pal at June 13, 2014 10:38 AM

I wouldn't have phrased it quite that way Grim, but in the main I agree with you.

I would have said something more like, "Accusing a classmate of sexual assault is rarely easy or pleasant. It takes courage, which is why so many genuine assault victims never come forward. Nothing government can do will make this process easy or pleasant. Period."

And this is true. The right covers a never-ending one sided parade of cases that are almost never presented in any detail and in which the conclusion: that there's no truth to the accusation - is a foregone conclusion. That's the real irony here: they're complaining about the presumption of guilt whilst presuming accusers are in fact guilty when in truth they don't know what happened.

He could have continued:

"Rape and sexual assault happen because a relatively small minority of people do bad things. Likewise, a relatively small number of young women falsely accuse young men of sexual assault. Again - nothing colleges and government can do will prevent this. But there are things colleges and government CAN do to make sure everyone in these distressing situations is treated fairly."

"One of them is to respect traditional rights of both the accused and accusers. Unfairly tipping the scales against accused young men will not solve this problem."

But he didn't say that. I guess it was too hard.

But being an actual victim doesn't seem to me to convey additional advantages. It tends to make you a focus of backlash. The women I've known who've actually raised charges have generally left the institutions not long after. The environment -- among both men and women -- tends to become hostile, just as human groups in general tend to expel those who complain about the power structure rather than embracing their place in it.

Thank you, thank you, thank you Grim for understanding this. Too many people don't. This is why, despite the fact that we often see things differently, I continue to respect your opinion and your writing.

I sincerely doubt anyone who has genuinely been assaulted derives much comfort from the ambiguous delights of "victim status". I'm pretty sure their feelings run rather in the other direction.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 13, 2014 10:40 AM

Let's not forget - as Instapundit and the folks who tout this issue 24/7 continually do - that a distressing number of young women have killed themselves, or tried to, or have been permanently damaged by the treatment they received when they went to the police.

That's an odd idea of "privilege".

Every major city in America has huge backlogs of rape kits. Some of these girls - I've read their stories - had plentiful physical evidence of forcible rape: bruising, tears in places I don't like thinking about, etc. And there are quite a few stories about young women who went to the police or to their colleges and were treated very badly.

But that really doesn't fit the preferred narrative on the right, does it? I sometimes wonder if in our haste to create another idiotic hastag slogan, we are losing our humanity (not to mention jettisoning common sense)?

As someone who has consistently objected to what I view as unfair policies on rape/sexual assault for YEARS now, I am ashamed and disgusted by the overwrought and one sided coverage of this issue by too many righty pundits.

Balance is important. So are basic honesty and decency.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 13, 2014 10:47 AM

I agree with Will. The fad of "micro-aggressions" trivializes real sexual assault, and lavishing attention on everyone who can identify an increasingly trivial series of micro-aggressions is a way to explode the dimensions of this "crisis" until it sucks up all the air in the room.

It seems to me that taking offense at Wills' arguments against the concept of micro-aggressions is tantamount to confusing micro-aggressions with real sexual assault, which is the core of the problem.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 13, 2014 11:48 AM

This is why, despite the fact that we often see things differently, I continue to respect your opinion and your writing.

Thank you, Cass. My respect for you is founded on your excellent and virtuous character. I generally enjoy it when we see things differently; it's often enlightening.

Posted by: Grim at June 13, 2014 12:18 PM

The fad of "micro-aggressions" trivializes real sexual assault

I would say that lumping microaggressions in with sexual assault trivializes sexual assault, regardless of who does it.

Hard to imagine any lefty claiming there's anything "micro" about sexual assault, though every time I think "No one could be that dumb" someone obligingly pops up and proves me wrong :p

I'm generally a fan of Will's writing, and I found the offending portion cringe-inducing. My husband, who feels MUCH more strongly about it than I do (the whole rape/sexual assault debacle) had exactly the same reaction.

Like I've said before, when something you say strikes people who already agree with you as wrong or offensive, it becomes a lot harder to maintain that people are only objecting because... partisanship!

Posted by: Cassandra at June 13, 2014 12:27 PM

...lavishing attention on everyone who can identify an increasingly trivial series of micro-aggressions is a way to explode the dimensions of this "crisis" until it sucks up all the air in the room

Is this really a fair description of what happens when someone accuses another student of sexual assault?

I don't think it is. Confine it to true "micro-aggressions" and I have no problem with it. Enlarge it to include sexual assault accusations and I have a BIG problem with it.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 13, 2014 12:29 PM

Balance is important. So are basic honesty and decency.

How does one go about invoking Marquess of Queensbury rules in the midst of a revolution?

It’s not the Right that has vaporized 'rape', it’s the Left. If the corporate 'you' will read into my gaze, my touch, my word, my inflection, my being male, 'rape' then I will read into the charge 'rape'! perhaps an ego trip, vanity, self-regard; but definitely a political indictment. If the default position is guilty and the evidence, exhibits A and B, white or male – as it was in Duke v White Lacrosse Team - then there is more at stake here then one woman’s accusation of assault. In an atmosphere where 'everything is political', balance is out the window.

I welcome the present escalation from the Right (there’s too little of it) and will not defer to rules of engagement that would rule out more than a proportional response or insist on balance. In times of revolution... that wouldn’t be prudent.

Posted by: George Pal at June 13, 2014 01:17 PM

Reported sexual assaults on campus rose 50% over the course of a decade - 2001 and 2011 - from 2,200 in 2001 to 3,300 in 2011. During that same period the number of students enrolled in college leaped from 15.9 million in 2001 to 21.2 million in 2011 - a increase of 33%. Hmmmm... That means that the number of sexual assaults reported grew at rate roughly 17% greater than the college population as a whole. Why?

The increase in reported sexual assaults may not necessarily indicate an increase in assaults themselves, but rather a greater number of crimes being reported. Advocates say a marked increase in reports of sexual assault can be a sign that survivors are beginning to feel more comfortable going to authorities. Cite.

Ok. I see no reason not to accept that assessment, and I think it's certainly an improvement, but if at least some portion of the increase in reported sexual assaults is due to victims feeling "more comfortable" about reporting the crime, then how does that support the claim that we are in the midst of an "epidemic" of sexual assault on college campuses?

Let's assume for the sake of this discussion that every reported sexual assault involves a man attacking a woman. Total female college enrollment increased from 8.967 million in 2001 to 12.091 million in 2011 - an increase of roughly 35%. During that same period, male enrollment increased roughly 32% from 6.961 million to 9.203 million. So over the decade where the college population swelled by about 2 million guys and 3 million gals, the number of sexual assaults reported increased by 1,100, a 50% increase. Huh. That comparison doesn't seem quite... right. Let me try again.
In 2001, the ratio between woman enrolled at college and reported sexual assaults 4073:1 (0.024%). By 2011 that ratio was 3664:1 (0.027%), an 11% increase. On the other side of the ledger, 1 out of every 3164 males enrolled in college in 2001 was accused of committing sexual assault 0.031%). By 2011, it was 1 out of every 2788 males (0.035%), an increase of 13%. This means that between 2001 and 2011, the percentage of males accused of committing sexual assault increased at a rate greater than that of women reporting sexual assaults during the same period. Hmmmm... I have no idea what that but it's pretty clear to me that while the total number of sexual assaults reported may have increased by 50% from 2001 to 2011, the rate of increase as a percentage of the relevant population was far, far less.

So... do the numbers reflect that sexual assault has risen to epidemic proportions on college campuses? Well, no. At least not in sense that the term "epidemic" is commonly understood. Yes, even one case is bad, and yes the number of assaults reported has increased marginally over time, which, I believe, was to be at least partially attributable to victims feeling "more comfortable" about reporting such incidents. And George Will is probably correct that some number of the reported assaults result involve faux victims. But it seems to me that his inflation of that problem is just as reckless as those ring the epidemic alarm.

Oh, look at the time! Gotta go. Bye now!

Posted by: spd rdr at June 13, 2014 02:05 PM

mr rdr....

How DARE you apply math and logic to what is clearly a situation so dire, so horrific - so... ELEVENTY-PLUS! - that people on both sides of it seem determined to abandon both math and logic along with the last shreds of their sanity?

[tapping foot]

Don't you know that there's an EPIDEMIC!!!!!11!! of false rape accusations at colleges?

My God, man - false accusations (come on - admit they're all false!) have gone up from .031% to .035% in JUST TEN YEARS!!! that's an increase of..... [whipping out handy pocket calculator] .0004% a YEAR for a whopping total of .004%!

It's DANGEROUS for young men to go to college at all! There are anecdotes lying in wait EVERYWHERE! Of course the other side has anecdotes too, but we need not pay any attention to them - just the ones that support what we want to believe about this situation.


Posted by: Cassandra at June 13, 2014 03:17 PM

George, one of my favorite maxims from the notebook of Lazarus Long was this one:

"Never frighten a little man. He'll kill you."

Am I calling you a little man? No, I am not because I don't believe that and I think far more of you than that and I'm not being facetious. But the argument you're making is one I have no respect for.

Morality isn't only for times when it's convenient.

The argument you're making amounts to little more than "Two wrongs make me right, whatever I do", coupled with "Given half a chance, I am willing to allow the other side to determine my moral standards rather than determining them for myself."

Or maybe it's just, "There are no objective moral standards when I feel threatened."

I can't believe you really believe that.

Guess what? Lots of people feel threatened by lots of things in life. The world is - and always has been - a dangerous place. Men have dealt with aggression and unscrupulous behavior from other men since the dawn of time and for most of history, picking up a 2x4 or a gun and killing the aggressor hasn't been an option for the average guy because - contra Internet braggadocio about "punching back twice as hard", going ballistic isn't an effective deterrent. We have laws and civilization because men figured that one out - because the majority of men are smart enough to see beyond the end of their own noses to the big picture.

The saddest thing about your argument is that I have seen people on the Right do and say things that - if we accept your framing - pretty much justify anything done to them in retaliation. This is because both sides have crackpots and jerks.

So if we accept your reasoning (and I don't for one minute) then we can't ever say they're wrong. It's a war, and we've thrown away the rule book ourselves.

Except it's not a really a war and we're not helpless weaklings. War isn't conducted via op-eds or waged in comments sections. Your comments tell me that you have a fine mind and can hold your own in any fight without adopting the tactics of people you despise.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 13, 2014 03:31 PM

"tit for tat, measure for measure, micro for micro. Brave New World for all."

Posted by: George Pal at June 13, 2014 10:38 AM

George said "tit". I feel sexually violated. I'm gonna sue.

Posted by: DUGurl at June 13, 2014 03:51 PM

George said "tit". I feel sexually violated. I'm gonna sue.

OK, I laughed out loud at that one :)

Well played, sir?... err... ma'am???

Posted by: Cassandra at June 13, 2014 03:56 PM

The most wunnerful thing about TRIGGERS
Is that TRIGGERS are wunnerful things
If ALL CAPS don't make you feel nervous
The "!!!!11!" will make your heart zing.

Yes, the most wunnerful thing about TRIGGERS
Is that MINE are the only ones.

Posted by: TRIGGER WARNING! at June 13, 2014 04:06 PM

Cass,

It’s times like this that I despair of women being analog and men being digital. We, the two of us, have much the same principles and desires but not the same method of communication. Make no more of that than my respectful intent.

Morality isn't only for times when it's convenient.

Morality does not at all enter into what Mr Will or I are saying. To say that crying 'WOLF' too often minimizes the dangers of wolves is not immoral, amoral, or moral. It is a practical matter. Cry 'RAPE' too often and you minimize the very real crime in the event it happens. When has a woman’s claim of sexual assault ever been more suspect than now? The Right had not done that. The Right merely expounds on human nature and suggests that when everything is rape the claim of rape is ipso facto suspect. I would not have it that way; no-one on the Right would have it that way; but it is so.

fight without adopting the tactics of people you despise.

Conservatives are not like Liberals. They have not stooped so low, nor have they travelled the low road nearly so often. To conclude our opinions, not constrained by absolute center or 'balance', are correspondent with the Left’s is to misjudge our present calamity entirely.

My principles are such as to live by, with others, - not to commit suicide by. I am not squeamish and have no qualms in defending with twice the ferocity as I am attacked. Extremism in the defense of freedom is graced by latitude; extremism in the pursuit of submission is illegitimate from the start. I would deny freedom to the one who would proscribe it; deny free speech to the one who would prohibit it; deny freedom of religion to the one who would forbid it. That is not an immoral position.

Perhaps you believe I am overstating our predicament? Perhaps you are right. I believe I am, as always, conservative in my assessment.

Posted by: George Pal at June 13, 2014 05:20 PM

DUGurl,

Oh hell, I’m feeling felonious. I would not have you snatch from me my freedom for the misdemeanor of an itty bitty ‘tit’.

Posted by: George Pal at June 13, 2014 05:21 PM

You want to know what's REALLY dangerous? Lawyers doing math. It's not because they might sometimes get the wrong answer - I mean, really, lawyers never get the wrong answer, just a different answer that is also 100% correct until all appeals have been exhausted. But my computations above did include one enormous assumption that I failed to properly note. That assumption being that in every reported instance the sexual assault was alleged to have been carried out by a male college student. I know it's far fetched, but there is a extremely remote possibility that, just maybe, in a percentage, albeit a teensy-tiny itty-bitty microscopic mini-mini percentage, of the total number of reported sexual assaults, the victim claimed to have been attacked by some sort of non-matriculated individual, like, oh... crack heads, drug dealers, and pimps. You know,the usual dirtbags. And maybe also sociology professors, rock band roadies, former governors of Arkansas, maybe a random quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and let's not forget that worthless P.O.S. they dated in high school - that son-of-a-bitch just can't seem to get the message, even after Dad threatened to bury him the back yard!
My point? Uh... Oh yeah, my point is that when I was addressing the sexual assault "epidemic" on America's college campuses, I failed to properly note that simply because the assault was alleged to have occurred on campus, that doesn't necessarily mean that either the accused or the victim is a student. So how about them apples.

Posted by: spd rdr at June 13, 2014 05:33 PM

I mean, really, lawyers never get the wrong answer, just a different answer that is also 100% correct until all appeals have been exhausted.

Hah!

"Never frighten a little man. He'll kill you."

So will a horse. Or a grizzly bear. It's a man who might not.

Posted by: Grim at June 13, 2014 05:53 PM

I would deny freedom to the one who would proscribe it; deny free speech to the one who would prohibit it; deny freedom of religion to the one who would forbid it. That is not an immoral position...

You have a funny definition of immorality if you think doing twice as much wrong is anything approaching moral. It is license, not justice. Two eyes for an eye isn't a respected rule anywhere except perhaps in the more savage parts of the Muslim world (and that's worked out so well, hasn't it?)

If, being offended by stories or op eds or whatever thing happens to upset or scare you on the Internet, you seek to deprive an entire class of people of freedom, speech, or religion because one or more members of some group wanted to take those things from you, then you are not behaving morally or justly.

Don't submit. No one here is asking you to. But don't tell me that it's "moral" to do twice as much evil as those you are so offended by. That's utter nonsense, and makes me wonder if you don't need to go back and re-read some of those classics you speak of.

Durable virtue will belong to the happy man, and he will be happy throughout his life, for he will always opt for virtuous acts and thoughts and he will bear the hazards of life with nobility and live beyond reproach.

*cough*

No happy man can become miserable, for he will never do acts that are hateful and mean.

- Aristotle

"One who is injured ought not to return the injury, for on no account can it be right to do an injustice; and it is not right to return an injury, or to do evil to any man, however much we have suffered from him."

- Socrates (and also, Christ, for that matter)

"Whom do I call educated? First, those who manage well the circumstances they encounter day by day. Next, those who are decent and honorable in their intercourse with all men, bearing easily and good naturedly what is offensive in others and being as agreeable and reasonable to their associates as is humanly possible to be... those who hold their pleasures always under control and are not ultimately overcome by their misfortunes... those who are not spoiled by their successes, who do not desert their true selves but hold their ground steadfastly as wise and sober -- minded men."

- Socrates, again

And then there's pretty much the entire New Testament.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 13, 2014 06:13 PM

spd, I assumed you had simplified the calculation :p

But it seems to me that if the accused is a non-student in at least some of these campus rape stats (and research I did a while back for a never-written post indicates this is indeed the case), then college is even *less* dangerous for young male students than we are constantly being told it is.

Finally, let's keep in mind that not all reported assaults result in any action taken against the accused. This is, after all, what feminists are angry about.

And not all accusations are false. Which makes the perceived "danger" of being falsely accused even smaller.

Yes, feminists are exaggerating the danger to women. I've argued this for almost a decade now.

But so are conservatives exaggerating the danger to young men. The plural of "scary anecdote" is not "facts".

Posted by: Cassandra at June 13, 2014 06:36 PM

Cass:

For the most part I agree with you, and don't intend here to side against you; but since you're quoting Socrates (and Aristotle, but I'm going to leave that one alone for now), you should be aware that the context is important.

In Book I of the Republic, Socrates -- Plato, really -- defines justice as "helping your friends and harming your enemies." In the second book, there is an account of why that quality is a necessary part of the soul of the best kind of person, and especially of the kind of person to whom the security of a state might be entrusted.

Well, that's what we say about Marines, too: 'No better friend, no worse enemy.'

So, yes, Socrates believes you shouldn't do injustice to anyone. But justice embraces being dangerous to your enemies -- indeed, it is fully half of the definition he gives to the virtue.

Posted by: Grim at June 13, 2014 06:51 PM

The philosopher has not yet been born, the gospel has yet to be written, that could encourage me to tolerate my demise meekly without murmur.

“Tolerance is a virtue of a man without convictions.” - G K Chesterton

"Perhaps the meek shall inherit the Earth, but they'll do it in very small plots . . . about 6' by 3'." -- Robert A. Heinlein

No man who will not abide me will I abide. - George Pal

“Two eyes for an eye isn't a respected rule anywhere except perhaps in the more savage parts of the Muslim world”

I had not asked for two of anything - only that a social contract run both ways. If it doesn’t, all bets are off. And it’s odd you should bring up the Muslim world. To tolerate that which out of hand dismisses me is insanity – you see that don’t you?

Posted by: George Pal at June 13, 2014 07:11 PM

Something else is nagging me for an explanation.
As I have previously demonstrated, in 2011 the ratio of women enrolled in college to reported sexual assaults was 3664:1, meaning that roughly 0.027% of female college students reported a sexual assault that year. (Note to David Brat voters: This ratio reflects female college enrollment and sexual assaults reported nationally, you know, "from sea to shining sea?" That 'Murica. So do not expect that every college actually will have the exact same ratio as listed here. Some will be higher, or lower, and some will still be obscure little liberal arts colleges in Ashland, Virginia despite having two congressional candidates in the faculty lounge vying for the privilege of ruing the Commonwealth. Just try to keep up, and I'll go over this material again after your nap.)

According to the statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Education and presented as an aggregate in this article, between 2006 and 2012 there were 152 reported sexual assaults at Harvard College - about 25 a year. But, according to College Data, Harvard College only has some 3350 female undergraduates. That's a ratio of 1 sexual assault reported for every 134 female undergraduates (0.75%), or roughly 27 times the average national('Murica!)rate!

Can someone please tell me what in God's name is going on in Hah-vuhd Yaaaahd???
(Not you, Brat. You siddown 'n shaddap.)

Posted by: spd rdr at June 13, 2014 07:22 PM

Perhaps that explains why Harvard (and Dartmouth, for that matter) are on the list of colleges being investigated.

Alternatively, since we were already told that more reporting is a *good* thing and does not necessarily mean the incidence of rape went up (important qualifier b/c if the rape rate went up tomorrow by 100% I'm pretty sure reports would too and that would NOT be a sign of progress), one has to wonder a bit.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 13, 2014 07:46 PM

One thing that strikes me here is obsessing over the the likelihood that a young man will be accused of rape or a young woman will report a rape (not BE raped, but report it) is similar to obsessing about shark attacks or being struck by lightning.

Which is not to say people shouldn't object to injustice. They should, and I have done so repeatedly.

But to maintain that the world is such a dangerous, scary place because... FEMINISTS! that men don't stand a chance is a bit weird. Men are in more danger from other men, but that really doesn't fit the narrative.

I suppose that's why no one ever throws any hard data at the claim, preferring to mislead with dumb stats like "OMG, the proportion of men to women has changed!!!!!!!111!!" when the proportion of men who go to college has actually continued to *rise* at the same rate for decades (it's just that women's has risen faster, which is hardly surprising given that they started off way behind) is pretty perverse.

Posted by: We don't need no stinkin' facts! at June 13, 2014 07:55 PM

M'am, I ain't "no one," ever.
G'day.

Posted by: spd rdr, hrdr data at June 13, 2014 08:58 PM

"Hard to imagine any lefty claiming there's anything "micro" about sexual assault"--Hard to imagine a conservative claiming it either, though sometimes I do wonder what comes out of conservatives' mouths about women. But did you get that from what Will said? If you did, then I can see why you reacted that way, and I would agree with you. Nevertheless, I thought he was objecting to the elevation of micro-aggressions ("somebody looked at me funny, even if he wasn't aware he was doing it") to something like the level of a genuine sexual assault, which I would say is confusing trivial concerns with very serious ones. In other words, if one insists on treating micro-aggressions as a four-alarm problem, one hasn't got much further to turn the dial up to when there's a real assault.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 14, 2014 01:00 AM

Wow!
Lots if words and grand thoughts about an ugly little (arguably not so common) problem.

Why quote philosophers?

This is a sadly simple issue:
- for cases of obvious provable violent rape, kill the bastard.
- instances of sex w/o consent between young dumb drunk kids is not nice, but it doesn't warrant a violation of the constitutional presumption of innocence (which new fed guidelines trample on).
- for God's sake, we need to train our kids to be more careful about their behavior, especially college drinking events.

Best Regards,

Posted by: CAPT Mike at June 14, 2014 03:16 AM

Fellow CAPT: You nailed it.

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at June 14, 2014 08:59 AM

Nevertheless, I thought he was objecting to the elevation of micro-aggressions ("somebody looked at me funny, even if he wasn't aware he was doing it") to something like the level of a genuine sexual assault, which I would say is confusing trivial concerns with very serious ones. In other words, if one insists on treating micro-aggressions as a four-alarm problem, one hasn't got much further to turn the dial up to when there's a real assault.

I completely agree with that, Tex. I think you're right - we got a completely different impression of what Will was implying.

Posted by: Cass at June 14, 2014 10:09 AM

M'am, I ain't "no one," ever.

OK, you got me :p

Yanno, I knew exactly what I *meant* when I typed that! (no one who makes the claim... ).

Since I didn't see you as having made that claim, I didn't mean to include you in the "no one" category.

Posted by: Cass at June 14, 2014 10:12 AM

[working backwards, mostly because it's easier]

Mike, surely (Shirley!) you've noticed that there's no formal "importance" threshold for voluntary discussions? If something interests one of us, we talk about it. If no one's interested enough to respond, the conversation dies off naturally.

Few topics will interest everyone, but if someone's interested enough to respond to a comment, that's fine with me. Hard to have discussions if we have to micro-examine every thought and say, "Gee - is this really worth talking about? Let's take a vote!"

I've always hated comments sections where the blog owner is constantly stepping in and trying to control the conversation by deleting or censoring comments, or insists that every comment be "on topic". That bores me. VC is the kind of place where I hope readers feel free to talk about whatever interests them, so long as they observe minimal rules about not attacking other readers personally.

And I don't think this issue is as simple as you want it to be. Accusations of sexual assault don't fall into a binary forcible rape/drunken hookup scheme. That's why they're so hard to deal with - that, and the evidentiary 'he said/she said' problem.

That said, I agree that the drunken hookup "danger/epidemic/crisis!!!" doesn't warrant violating the Constitution's guarantees of the presumption of innocence in criminal trials.

But that's a perfect example of why this isn't as simple as you maintain. College hearings are not criminal proceedings, and the Constitution is quite clear about those guarantees applying ONLY to criminal proceedings. They don't apply to civil proceedings, which have a lower burden of proof (preponderance of the evidence or clear and convincing evidence) because the penalties are less severe. An offense that has been defined as a crime by statute can also be a civil offense with civil remedies far less severe than going to jail. The nature and purpose of civil and criminal proceedings are very different, which is why they have different burdens of proof, different remedies, etc.

People frequently try to apply various provisions in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to situations not covered by either. They try to apply the First Amendment (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances...) to disputes between citizens or private entities, but such disputes aren't covered by the First Amendment.

The same is true here: college disciplinary hearings are not covered under the Bill of Rights. To do so (and demand proof beyond a reasonable doubt, citing the Constitution as authority) is about as good an example of judicial activism and liberal "living Constitution/the C is whatever we want it to be this week" reasoning as I can think of.

Posted by: Cass at June 14, 2014 10:28 AM

George, no one is trying to kill you. And I do hope that you are not in the habit of engaging in drunken hookups with women who are likewise drunk. This situation is easily avoided by applying ordinary care in the choice of sexual partners and in who one associates with.

And you stated quite clearly that you think repaying a wrong done to you with twice as much wrong is "moral" behavior.

Sorry, I don't agree. It may be understandable or necessary if survival is at stake (that's the way you keep framing this) but I'm not quite ready to elevate a relatively rare, easily avoided scenario to a lurking danger that threatens your survival, the survival of the vast majority of men who seem to get through life without acting like complete jackwagons, or Western Civilization.

And yes, women who get into drunken hookups are acting just as recklessly and the solution is for ANYONE (regardless of sex) who is doing this to mitigate their own risks by exercising a bit of self control and personal responsibility. IOW, "grow up".

Posted by: Cass at June 14, 2014 10:49 AM

Grim:

...yes, Socrates believes you shouldn't do injustice to anyone. But justice embraces being dangerous to your enemies -- indeed, it is fully half of the definition he gives to the virtue.

Thanks for the correction :) In this case, I disagree with Socrates, but am always willing to learn something new - including my having misunderstood something!

Posted by: Cass at June 14, 2014 10:51 AM

I'm actually pretty interested in the idea of micro-aggressions, or more broadly, with habits of thought that may be manifested in small things but betray large errors. So while I agree with Will that there's a danger in conflating minor offenses with major ones--a potentially offensive attitude is never "practically the same thing" as rape--I'm with Cass on the subject of how inadvisable it is to respond to a conversational gambit with a complaint that it's not interesting enough to discuss. Better to leave the discussion to those who are interested, or change it to something we think is more interesting, than to say, in effect, "You're boring me." See Grim's post today.

I often disagree sharply with Cassandra. She never bores me.

Posted by: Texan99 at June 14, 2014 11:28 AM

"College hearings are not criminal proceedings, and the Constitution is quite clear about those guarantees applying ONLY to criminal proceedings."

This gets a bit murky with regards to public institutions, though -- there have been court rulings that, for example, public schools can't suspend students without "due process," (their right to an education being seen as "property," which can't be taken without due process of law) and while "due process" in those cases doesn't rise to the level of a jury trial, it may still include a presumption of innocence, a right to representation, and a formal hearing. I'm not sure how this translates to university attendance, though; there's no "right" to college attendance (although having already paid tuition might make that semester's attendance one's property?), and even most state universities are semi-independent of the government.

Posted by: Matt at June 14, 2014 12:32 PM

This gets a bit murky with regards to public institutions, though -- there have been court rulings that, for example, public schools can't suspend students without "due process," (their right to an education being seen as "property," which can't be taken without due process of law) and while "due process" in those cases doesn't rise to the level of a jury trial, it may still include a presumption of innocence, a right to representation, and a formal hearing.

Yes, but I think the nature of the rights are essentially civil rather than criminal.

I also think (having attended a private HS with an old fashioned honor court that regularly expelled tuition paying students from HS - think *that* has any effect on a student's life??? - for all sorts of offenses that don't rise nearly to the level of sexual assault) that we need to be EXTREMELY careful about forcing strict rules on such institutions that were developed for criminal courts --- even if the result is sometime unfair to individuals.

They do have recourse - they can sue in civil court or they can sue (as many are doing now) under Title IX. It's not as though they have to way to fight back.

It's just that fighting back involves effort/expense. When I hear conservatives suggesting that we need to step in and keep life from being hard, I'm going to weigh in on the side of skepticism.

The real nub of this matter is this: are these schools freely adopting the preponderance standard, or are they being pressured to do so by administrative regulations (Dept. of Education, Dept. of Justice) that essentially bypass Congress?

Part of the reason govt. grows is that people get bent out of shape about some alleged abuse that is so horrible that IT MUST NOT STAND AND SOMEONE (!) MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Conservatives have tended over time to maintain that disputes between private individuals and groups should be handled by the interested parties.

Liberals have tended to maintain that Congress needs to pass yet another law.

It's pretty clear to me that Title IX statutory law has been interpreted in a way that's contrary it the clear meaning of the statute. There already exists a remedy for this problem: parties with standing can sue, and their costs can be underwritten by groups and amicus briefs can be filed.

In this age of instant gratification, I think we - and by "we", I mean conservatives - often fail to heed our own advice.

We lose freedom when we put too many restrictions on how groups or institutions handle disputes or conflicts of interest. Stepping in and imposing legal standards meant for crimes on a non-criminal proceeding strikes me as exactly the kind of heavy handed overreaction we usually criticize the Left for. Kids can be expelled for cheating and plagiarism too - do we REALLY want to insist that any time a student is expelled, we demand the equivalent of a criminal trial?

This seems unwise at best, and if we don't accept that broad tactic then what's our argument for wanting it only in this case? Seems like a case of special pleading to me.

There's a balancing of rights here between colleges, which have an interest in maintaining their academic reputations and ensuring the safety of students, and students who have paid good money (sometimes - let's not forget federal student grants/loans) for a qualified right to attend classes that is essentially contractual in nature.

Let's not create another idiotic entitlement here just because people on the Internet want to take every dispute to the Planet Eleventy.

Posted by: Cass at June 14, 2014 01:53 PM

So I wandered over to the DoJ's and FBI's websites to get some basic sexual assault statistics on the subject.

In a nutshell: reporting is up; crime is down.

It seems to me that some people have a fever. Maybe they need more cowbell.

Posted by: Allen at June 14, 2014 06:03 PM

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