Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fascism at Cornell

This sort of thing so disturbs me and so feeds my pessimism about education, the rule of law, and free speech in America that I don’t know how to begin except to get to the incident at hand.

A brave Cornell student wrote a column for the campus newspaper decrying how under “rape culture” hysteria, protections for students accused of rape have been virtually eliminated in university tribunals:

…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….

Eminently reasonable.  And the problem is just not at Cornell.  The stripping of protections of the accused has occurred at many American universities, and that encouraged by the Obama regime:

In April 2011, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights sent a letter to college and university presidents laying out guidelines for handling reports of sexual assault and harassment. One key recommendation was that such complaints should be evaluated based on a “preponderance of the evidence”-the lowest standard of proof used in civil claims. (In lay terms, it means that the total weight of the believable evidence tips at least slightly in the claimant’s favor.) Traditionally, the standard for finding a student guilty of misconduct of any kind has been “clear and convincing evidence”-less stringent than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but still a very strong probability of guilt.

But what was the response to student’s column at Cornell?  A group of little fascists Cornell students decried that the column was printed at all and demanded an apology.  Further they accused the student of trying to “erase” the rights of rape victims.  This from their conclusion is particularly rich: 

While open conversation is important, it cannot be secondary to or a substitute for action.

In other words, “our agenda trumps your free speech.”

Those students are the ones who are trying to erase the rights of the accused and even to silence those who advocate for the rights of the accused.  They want tribunals in which being accused of a crime is tantamount to being guilty.  And they want those who dissent shamed and punished.  How familiar . . . and how convenient for little totalitarians who have an agenda to shove down people’s throat.

Alarmingly, this totalitarian “shut up” culture is, again, not at all confined to Cornell.  The question is how far will we allow it to go off campus in America.

No comments: