The long arm of the federal government is growing longer with the Obama Administration’s continued pressure on members of its new shaming list. That list is the 55 colleges and universities that may have fallen short in handling allegations of student sexual misconduct. My alma mater is among the shamed.
When Title IX was enacted in 1972, its goal was to prevent campus sexual discrimination in athletics. But President Obama has expanded the law’s reach by threatening the loss of federal funds to those schools which have not sufficiently transformed themselves into satellite offices of the local District Attorney.
We’ve come so far?
My newly co-ed college had fewer than 600 women when Title IX became law. But one of those women became the first female head of the SEC. Another became the first African-American female attorney general of New Jersey. My old roommate is a renowned radiation oncologist; another woman, Michael Bloomberg’s first deputy mayor, is listed as one of the 50 most powerful women in New York.
Yet despite these extraordinary accomplishments, today’s keepers of the Title IX flame want us to believe that the same college that proudly claims some of America’s leading women is now producing withering violets who don’t know how to show a guy that no means no.
How has a situation better suited to the plot of a Freshman English existential novel become the law of the land? Spare us, please, from the bizarre courtroom drama in which a tenured professor of 18th century Italian literature, aided by a 19-year-old gender studies major, becomes judge and jury, deciding what rape is, and what its punishment should be.
To the poor young woman who has been sexually assaulted, we offer a maze of highly paid yet woefully unprepared professors and bureaucrats, with a few “student peers” thrown in, to guide her through the most devastating crisis of her life. To the poor young man falsely accused, we offer only the assumption that you are guilty until proven innocent, and that, even if you are found innocent, we know you did it anyway, so don’t even think of coming back for your class reunion.
Memo to the Obama Administration and its higher education enablers: Rape is a felony. After murder, it is the worst thing that can happen to you. Give this job back to the professionals.
What to do?
Here is what the federal government should require colleges and universities to do. Tell women: If you have been raped, call 911 immediately. Then call the office of the dean of students. They will support you through your dreadful ordeal. Tell men: If you are accused of rape, get yourself a lawyer immediately. Then call the dean of students office. They will support you through your dreadful ordeal.
What else should colleges do? Work like crazy to prevent rape. At freshman orientation, teach students that perpetrating non-consensual sexual relations is a serious crime. That a drunk or unconscious woman cannot legally give consent, no matter what she may have mumbled to you. That a smart woman does not get herself crazy, passed out drunk, or hang around the fraternity house until 4 a.m., hours after her sober sisters have gone home.
After that, colleges must turn over this grown-up problem to the grown-ups: America’s criminal justice system. Let the experts decide whether a crime has been committed, what the charges will be, and if those charges can be likely proven in open court.
There is an ironic sense of justice in this mess. Who more than the higher education establishment was all in for Obama? But now they’re finding that “Yes we can” really means “No you can’t.”
No, you can’t just let the legal system handle felony charges involving your students. No, you can’t get federal funds if even one student proves that you did not take her (his?) charge of sexual assault seriously. (Even if it’s reported eight months later. Even if she had consensual relations with the guy the day before and the week after. Even if both parties were so blotto that no one really remembers what happened.)
It is also higher education which has coauthored with the Obama crowd a new and constantly expanding definition of victimhood. At least one college I know has an administrator with the curious title of “director of sexual misconduct.” What might constitute an ideal workday for that particular bureaucrat: a long line of victims outside the door, or an empty calendar? Does s/he have to hustle up victims to justify his/her position, with its attractive compensation package, hefty pension plan and 22 days’ paid vacation?
We are the makers of our own muddle. Until our universities (and the parents who subsidize them) teach students common sense instead of victimhood studies, and until the federal government gets out of the complicated, highly charged world of adolescent sex, confusion will replace pillow talk in the campus bedroom.