It's finally happening: The Education Department's "rape culture" witchhunts against collegesand their male students look a though they're grinding to a halt. Thank you, Secretary Betsy DeVos! Or, more pointedly, thank you, Office of Civil Rights chief Candice Johnson!
Under the Obama administration, the Department of Education (DOE) pushed the "rape culture" narrative — that one quarter of women would be raped or sexually assaulted on college campuses, and that colleges could not trust the police to handle these crimes. This created a perverse system of campus tribunals which denied due process rights to (mostly) men accused of sexual assault.
On Friday, The New York Times reported on an internal memo published by Propublica showing the Trump administration's first steps in overhauling this "sex bureaucracy." The Times interpreted the move as "scaling back investigations into civil rights violations at the nation's public schools and universities."
The memo, written by Candice Jackson, the acting head of the DOE's Office of Civil Rights (OCR), reversed one part of the Obama administration's campus sexual assault policies, but it is an important first step in reforming the system. Under Obama, OCR investigated colleges when women accusers claimed the colleges were too lax on the men they accused of sexual assault.
The Obama-administration policy, contained in a 2014 statement, essentially gave female students who didn't like the way their colleges had handled their sexual-assault claims against male students a second shot at going after the accused men. They could simply file a complaint against the college with the OCR, arguing that the supposed lax treatment–a finding, for example, that the sex was voluntary and no assault had occurred–violated Title IX's ban on sex discrimination at educational institutions. The OCR would then automatically investigate, not just the complaining woman's case, but the college's handling of every other sexual-harassment complaint on its campus for a full three years back. This effectively placed in double jeopardy not just the male student who had been the subject of the complaint but every other male student or student organization (such as a fraternity or a band) that the college's assault tribunal had cleared during those three years. This was supposed to establish a pattern of lax sexual-assault oversight that could subject a college to civil-rights penalties, indluding the withdrawal of the institution's federal funding.
As O'Neil writes:
This practice demonstrated the "rape culture" narrative's insistence on over-exaggerating the likelihood of sexual assault on campus, and pushing the idea that every woman who accuses a man of sexual assault should receive the benefit of the doubt. In fact, almost nine out of ten colleges reported zero sexual assaults in 2015.
Furthermore, the policy, coupled with the Obama Education Department's 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter that effectively ordered colleges to lower their proof standard in handling sexual-assault claims, encouraged widespread campus due-process abuses in which administrators might tilt their administrative proceedings against accused male students so as to avoid OCR sanctions. One result has a been a spate of successul lawsuits against campuses by grossly mistreated young men.
Jackson's memo decrees that heretoforth the Education Department will decide on a "case-by-case basis" whether such in-depth investigations are warranted.
PJ Media's O'Neil interviewed Stuart Taylor, co-author (along with Brooklyn College history professor KC Johnson) of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America's Universities:
[The Obama] policy was "based on a false assumption that [sexual assault] is widespread in the colleges," Taylor explained. "I frankly doubt that there's more than a handful of colleges across the United States that have systematically discriminated against accusers." His book is full of examples of colleges discriminating against the accused.
Jackson's memo also nullified a similar three-year investigation policy put into place during Obama's presidency for handling complaints that schools and colleges were disciplining members of racial and ethnic minorities in a discriminatory manner.
The memo is a great start. Now to rescind that 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter.