University of Washington researchers last year reported that, contrary to stereotypes, college men were more likely than women to report being pressured into having sex. Columbia University women should take note because, under its new sexual misconduct policy, pressuring a reluctant partner can earn an aggressor of either sex a jury-rigged trial and speedy expulsion.
A week ago, “as a direct result of massive student pressure,” Columbia instituted new rules designed to expedite disciplinary proceedings. Now a student accused of sexual misconduct does not have the right to face his (or, theoretically, her) accuser, directly hear incriminating testimony, directly challenge witnesses, or have a lawyer present. Charges may be brought up to five years after the alleged incident, if both parties still are enrolled. And Columbia’s overly broad definition of sexual misconduct includes contact in which “advantage (was) gained by the victim’s mental or physical incapacity or impairment of which the perpetrator was aware or should have been aware.”
In other words, a perp need not have plied his victim with alcohol or used force or threat to have his way. Simply being a cad, a drunk or a blundering freshman is adequate basis for disciplinary action.
Columbia’s new policy obliterates the rights of the accused to face his accuser. A student leader of the effort supporting this policy defends this as necessary, saying women do “not want to be forced to sit in a room with the accused.” They need, it seems, special protections from the unpleasantness of expelling a fellow classmate.
“An awful lot has been given up in terms of due process, and it surprises me that it was given up so readily,” Columbia law professor Gerard Lynch told the Columbia Daily Spectator.
But it should come as no surprise that on the modern college campus, where men are routinely depicted as rapists (or, more artfully, “potential rapists”), such inconveniences as due process are blithely swept aside. Columbia’s policy is premised on the belief — the near certainty — that the accused is male, guilty as sin, and that there are more like him who have slipped the noose.
Universities, thankfully, are not the real world. But they are in the business of illuminating democratic principles to our future intellectuals, public leaders and moms and dads.
Columbia has failed not only its young men, who are now nearly defenseless against charges of misconduct, but also its women, who are being led to believe that legal rights are matters of political whim and gendered justice.
The emboldened Columbia activists who “grilled” — their word — university administrators into submission now vow to spread their ideas to other campuses. Let’s hope another liberal tool of dissent, the lawsuit, will stop them.
This article appeared in USA Today.