Is campus “rape culture” off the list of acceptable debate?
Last week we featured Mark Steyn’s column about forced intellectual conformity on campus:
Universities are no longer institutions of inquiry but ‘safe spaces’ where delicate flowers of diversity of race, sex, orientation, ‘gender fluidity’ and everything else except diversity of thought have to be protected from exposure to any unsafe ideas….
As American universities, British playwrights and Australian judges once understood, the ‘safe space’ is where cultures go to die.
Almost as if on cue, some students at Cornell have sought to shut down a dissenting view on campus “rape culture.”
The spark was a column in The Cornell Daily Sun by student Julius Kairey, which we featured at College Insurrection. That column, titled The Truth About “Rape Culture” took issue with the statistics behind claims of an epidemic of sexual assault, and the related rush to strip the accused of due process rights:
I would be less concerned about the exaggerated statistics about “rape culture,” and thus less inclined to criticize it, if it were not causing concrete harm to students. But the belief that rape must be prevented by “any means necessary” has been used to justify the elimination of key protections for students accused of rape in campus judicial systems. Some want the claims of the alleged victims of rape to be accepted as true, and not scrutinized in a fair legal proceeding. Just two years ago, Cornell stripped those accused of sexual offenses of the right to retain an attorney in University proceedings and the right to cross-examine their accusers. A student accused of a sexual offense at Cornell is now not able to directly ask the person who is making a potentially life-ruining accusation a single question about the incident. This is an inexcusable erasure of the fundamental right to confront one’s accuser, a right that has existed for all of our country’s history. Such rights are not superfluous. They protect us against arbitrary action by those who hold the levers of power.
To make matters worse, the University has dropped the standard of proof in sexual assault cases from “clear and convincing evidence” to “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that a Cornell student accused of a violent offense that is sexual in nature will not have the legal safeguards given to others whose alleged offenses were non-sexual. With the punishment being so severe and so much on the line for the accused, how can we accept such a low standard of proof?
Given that this university has a tremendous power to punish students, we have an obligation to make sure that the innocent do not get hurt….
The loss of due process rights for students accused of sexual assault is a topic we have addressed many times here and at College Insurrection:
The response to Kairey’s column was fairly predictable, as we noted at College Insurrection. A group of Cornell students castigated The Daily Sun for running the column, and accused Kairey of fomenting further sexual assaults, The Danger of Rape Culture Denial:
We disagree with the decision to publish “The Truth About ‘Rape Culture,’” by Julius Kairey ’15. Kairey blatantly disrespected a sensitive subject by reducing and delegitimizing the scarring experiences of survivors. This newspaper erred in publishing this article and should now also take responsibility for the harmful, triggering effects that articles like these cause. We hope that in the future, the Cornell Daily Sun makes a conscious effort to ensure that their columnists treat subjects like sexual assault with respect. We call for an apology from Kairey and the Cornell Daily Sun…..
Rape culture describes the systematic denial of justice for victims of sexual assault: The deck is always stacked against the survivor, and the ignorant defend this status quo. Those, like Kairey, who have the power to create change by advocating for survivors instead choose to ignore their voices, erase their rights and refuse to hold perpetrators accountable….
Read the whole thing.
It nicely fits with what Steyn called the “shut up” culture on campuses.