If further evidence were needed that campus courts are the wrong place to adjudicate criminal cases and, especially, sexual assault cases, look no further than Pitzer College in Claremont, California. Here, the administrator recently hired to oversee the college’s campus court proceedings is named in a lawsuit for violating a student’s fundamental due process rights.
Sexual assault continues to be in the spotlight at the 5Cs, mostly as a result of the continued activism of Pomona College students and the proactivity of the administration. During the 2015 Pomona College Commencement ceremony, a majority of students graduating turned their backs to Pomona College president David Oxtoby to protest the allegedly poor treatment of sexual assault victims. In response to these protests, Oxtoby sent out a letter to students on June 3rd announcing new initiatives to improve the response to sexual assault reports, allegations, and prosecution.
One initiative in particular stands out: the adoption of Callisto, an online reporting system for sexual assault victims that serves as a complaint escrow. Simply put, this software allows sexual assault victims to record an incident’s details on a third-party device and safeguard it for future use. Callisto provides many features, including immediately reporting an incident, reporting the incident information when a second claim surfaces against the same attacker, or deleting the report if the victim decides against reporting the assault. The report includes any level of detail that the victim chooses to share, and has the option to submit reports to college administration and/or law enforcement. Only the parties involved in the case have access to the information which prevents mismanagement of student records. Falsified reports can also be prevented since suspicious reporting patterns and inconsistent information is kept on record once it is submitted.
Jessica Ladd (PO ’07) started development of Callisto in 2011 to reduce negative sexual assault reporting experiences and to collect details about sexual assault incidents. Since Callisto reduces contact with administration, the chances of a bad reporting experience are greatly reduced. This should lead to higher sexual assault reporting rates on college campuses.
Callisto also allows for data collection on sexual assault incidents. Even with just two founding institutions adopting Callisto for the 2015-2016 school year, the software provides the opportunity to collect reliable statistics for sexual assaults on college campuses. Better statistics lead to better research and better problem-solving for campuses willing to address the problem. Access to reliable data in future studies can help colleges and universities assess the effects of Callisto and other sexual assault initiatives, keep track of sexual assault rates on campuses, and discover initiatives that prioritize the safety of students.
The Callisto interface has many benefits, but also exacerbates the flaws already present in the sexual assault reporting process. Falsified accusations can be submitted anonymously through thoughtful coordination without ever lying to an administrator’s face. Students could also submit reports on a whim against someone who offered a disappointing sexual experience or other various misgivings. Although falsified sexual assault reports are uncommon, the possibility of framing a student as part of a grudge and making them deal with the Title IX process for sexual assault accusations can be very burdensome for the accused, even if the student is found innocent.
On the other hand, Callisto can also be used to collect suspicious and deliberate attempts to unjustly incriminate students. Reports against a student that are all submitted to Callisto at the same time, for example, could be a scenario deemed as a falsified report. As mentioned earlier, inconsistent data from sexual assault reports is also compiled and can be used against malicious Callisto users. The actual effects of whether false reporting would change with Callisto are uncertain at best.
Pomona College is one of the most progressive college campuses in the country when it comes to addressing sexual assault. It is my hope that future data and analysis from Callisto will help us determine the magnitude of sexual assaults on campus and the steps necessary to address the problem across the nation. It is also my hope that we avoid the slippery slope of falsely accusing students of sexual assault based on a grudge or for a consensual but unpleasant time.
Students must also learn the difference between a sexual assault and a poor experience with intimate partners. Most students will go through experiences that they regret or undertake without proper judgement on both sides, but these experiences do not necessarily justify a sexual assault report. Even with very inefficient sexual assault reporting processes at colleges and the unfair treatment of victims through the Title IX process, Callisto can help streamline the process of sexual assault cases or even circumvent schools and go directly to law enforcement. The premise of “innocent until proven guilty” should be upheld throughout any type of adjudication by colleges and universities. Callisto will help maintain factual accuracy and give both the accuser and the accused an equal opportunity to present their cases.
As many of you now know, George Will was recently disinvited from speaking this coming February at Scripps College’s Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program, a series that is designed to bring one distinguished conservative figure per year to a campus that is, otherwise, ideologically homogenous.
Will assumed it was because of what he wrote in a controversial column on sexual assault. As he told the Claremont Independent in an interview, “they didn’t say that the column was the reason, but it was the reason.” Once the Independent broke the story, Scripps College President Lori Bettison-Varga issued a statement confirming Will’s theory.
The president’s statement and the wider debate on campus are filled with doubletalk. Among the most egregious: “Sexual assault is not a conservative or liberal issue. And it is too important to be trivialized in a political debate…”
Of course, sexual violence itself is not a political issue. It’s a criminal issue.
What is a political issue, however, is how we choose to respond to sexual violence on campus and as a nation. If we don’t “trivialize” such policies through reasoned debate, how do we know if they’re any good?
Each political perspective offers contrasting solutions to the problem of sexual violence.
The leftist perspective, comfortable with the goodness and effectiveness of the bureaucratic state, contends that school administrators should adjudicate cases of sexual violence (both sexaul assault and rape) under Title IX, treating sexual violence as a type of discrimination.
At Claremont McKenna College, rape is tried by administrators and faculty in makeshift courts. Let that sink in for a minute. Faculty and professors are sitting in as judge and jury in cases of rape, the most egregious sexual crime that can be committed against an adult, rather than real judges and a jury of one’s peers.
While college administrators may not desire to judge rape cases, they must do so because of an April 2011 Department of Education “Dear Colleague” letter, which mandates that, in order to stay in line with Title IX, colleges must try such cases, and under lower standards than those in real courts.
Such a system trivializes rape, treating it like a serious infraction. Furthermore, it imbues non-governmental entities with a worrying amount of power. There is already evidence that the current processes are excessively prone to outside influences, with cases being influenced by a student’s popularity or their relationship to a major donor or a national figure.
The conservative view (which, admittedly, Mr. Will could have done a better job of explaining) is that deans and professors shouldn’t be trying cases of sexual violence. Instead, our legal system should. Rights of the accused – like the presumption of innocence, right to an attorney, right to a judge, right to a jury that must reach a unanimous decision, and the right to cross-examination, among others – are weak or nonexistent in collegiate courtrooms. These rights do not exist in the court of public opinion, where debates over individual cases influence the national debate on sexual violence policy. However unpleasant, rights of the accused and a methodical judicial process are essential to ensuring that justice is done properly.
Rape shouldn’t be a “preponderance of evidence” infraction. Rape should be treated as a felony, a crime serious enough that must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Rape convictions shouldn’t result in simple expulsion. Rape convictions should result in jail time and felon status.
The argument that it was correct to uninvite Will is wrong-headed. Let’s be clear, this is absolutely not a question of free speech. Of course Scripps can invite or disinvite whomever it wants. What conservatives think is that, while it is Scripps’ right to disinvite Will, it was wrong of them to do so. It sets a bad precedent. It is an insult to the students of Scripps College. And it goes against values that classical liberalism does and modern progressive liberalism claims to espouse, such as toleration, reason, and the value of debate.
Disinviting George Will only tightens the ideological straight-jacket that binds the students of Scripps College. Let us hope that the students of Scripps understand the disservice their administrators have done to their intellectual environment and that they find ways to compensate. Reading the CI is a good way to start.
- The Claremont Independent’s 2013 piece on Title IX, including CMC Professor Joseph Bessette’s eight concerns over CMC’s sexual violence hearing procedures
- CMC Dean Spellman’s interview with the Claremont Independent on Title IX procedures where she explained her lack of concern over the new, lower “preponderance” standard of evidence
- The Student Life: Sexual Assault Survivors Criticize Reporting Process
- The CMC Forum: Sexual Assault at CMC: The Process and the Aftermath
- The Economist on “yes means yes” and sexual assault on campus
The Manhattan Institute’s Heather MacDonald on “Neo-Victorianism on Campus” in the Weekly Standard
- “Yes Means Yes” is a terrible law, and I completely support it by Ezra Klein
- “False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem” by Cathy Young
- More than ever for colleges, Title IX rape cases are a legal minefield
- How ‘Consensual’ Sex Got A Freshman Kicked Out Of College And Started A Huge Debate
- The George Will column in the Washington Post
- The Claremont Independent’s initial story on the George Will disinvitation
- The Claremont Independent’s follow-up with the Scripps President’s response
- The Scripps Voice Editorial on the George Will disinvitation
- The Claremont Independent’s rebuttal to the Scripps Voice editorial
- The Claremont Port Side also wrote about the George Will incident
A prominent conservative political pundit was uninvited from speaking at Scripps College, in a program designed to promote conservative views on campus, because of his conservative views.
Nationally syndicated columnist George Will was slated to speak at the ninth annual Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program, the mission of which is to bring speakers to campus whose political views differ from the majority of students at the all-women’s college, but had his invitation rescinded after he wrote a column about sexual assault on college campuses.
“It was in the works and then it wasn’t in the works,” Will said in an interview with the Independent. “They didn’t say that the column was the reason, but it was the reason.”
Will also told the Independent that Christopher DeMuth, former president of the American Enterprise Institute, one of the most influential conservative think tanks in the country, resigned from his position on the program’s speaker selection committee over the decision to revoke the invitation.
The Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program was established under the belief that “a range of opinions about the world – especially opinions with which we may not agree, or think we do not agree – leads to a better educational experience,” according to the Scripps College website.
It has not been announced who will be selected to replace Will at this year’s series. Previous speakers invited to campus by the program include conservative columnists Charles Krauthammer and Peggy Noonan.
News of the cancellation comes shortly after the release of a recurring study by Claremont McKenna College Professor Emeritus Ward Elliott that aims to measure political attitudes at the Claremont Colleges. In the most recent update of the report, Elliott could not find any Scripps faculty members who are registered Republicans.
“Among the 532 [Claremont Colleges] core faculty only 15 Republicans could be found in the registries,” Elliott said in an email to the Independent. “Pomona, Pitzer, and Scripps have a very few registered third-party core faculty, but no Republicans at all found.”
Libby Ramsey SC ‘17 said that the cancellation underscores the lack of political diversity at Scripps.
“There is minimal political diversity at Scripps,” Ramsey said in an email to the Independent. “Not only this, but the minority who have different viewpoints feel uncomfortable sharing their opinions, and there is a culture of exclusion and a lack of acceptance. If Scripps claims to want ‘to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently,’ as our founder explained, it should not keep contributing to a culture of exclusion and silence.”
Will’s June 6 column centered on the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, particularly regarding the federal government’s recent intervention into how colleges should respond to such incidents.
“[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,” Will wrote in the column. “And academia’s progressivism has rendered it intellectually defenseless now that progressivism’s achievement, the regulatory state, has decided it is academia’s turn to be broken to government’s saddle.”
Four Democratic members of the U.S. Senate signed a June 12 letter denouncing Will’s column, writing that his “notion about a perceived privileged status of survivors of sexual assault on campuses runs completely counter to the experiences described to us.”
Will responded to the U.S. Senate in a June 13 letter, writing, “I think I take sexual assault much more seriously than you. Which is why I worry about definitions of that category of that crime that might, by their breadth, tend to trivialize it. And why I think sexual assault is a felony that should be dealt with by the criminal justice system, and not be adjudicated by improvised campus processes.”
A representative from Scripps could not be reached for comment before press time. The Independent will update this article as their comment becomes available.