The Unpleasant Burden Of Deconstructing Gibberish

It’s hard to blame Scott Schneider for being an insipid shill. It’s his bread and butter, and he’s watching his livelihood swirl down the toilet before his eyes. Sure, lawyers with integrity can sneer at his game, but he’s doing the best he can with essentially nothing to work with. After all, the sad tears of the unduly emotional don’t play out well when put into words. He’s trying.

But that doesn’t mean the Chronicle of Higher Education isn’t blameworthy. Nobody forced it to publish such vague and disingenuous tripe. After pointing this out, Chronicle reporter Eric Kelderman challenged me to show how Schneider’s op-ed was gibberish, because my lawyer time is owed him to either make my case or be wrong. It’s not as if there aren’t dozens, if not more, exceptional pieces from the likes of Emily Yoffe (whose trilogy at The Atlantic is a must-read) that provide details that Kelderman seems to know absolutely nothing about.

I pointed Kelderman to my posts, as well as those of Yoffe, Christina Hoff Sommers, KC Johnson. I left out Jeannie Suk Gersen, et al., though I should have included those as well. Not that it mattered. He had no interest in them, and while he didn’t say so, I suspect he was fully aware of what they wrote. He couldn’t have read Ross Douthat yet, as his column didn’t come out until today. but I suspect that wouldn’t have mattered either.

No, Kelderman wanted only one thing of me: to deconstruct Schneider’s gibberish he put in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

This is the clue that he had no interest in the issue, but in defending his agenda. Schneider had no points. His was an argument built in weasel presumptions so ridiculously disingenuous that no rational person couldn’t laugh. Like what, you ask?

During a speech last week, the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, hinted that significant change may be necessary. She used the phrase “failed system” 13 times to refer to the way colleges and universities have handled allegations of sexual misconduct since the Obama administration’s influential 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter.

In making that assertion, Ms. DeVos relied on a “parade of horribles” that was based almost exclusively on anecdotal, one-sided allegations in litigation. She also made significant misstatements regarding the state of the law and regulatory guidance.

By anecdotal, Schneider means the more than 60 federal court decisions holding that campus adjudication systems based on the letter deprive students of due process. Those are some damn fine anecdotes, in addition to the underlying facts which have been conclusively established over and over. When it comes to a parade of horribles, it doesn’t get any more horrible.

But enough with Schneider’s dismissal of federal court decisions. What about the core of his op-ed, that DeVos made “misstatements”?

Here are a few of her more significant assertions and misstatements, taken from the text of her prepared remarks:

It’s not clear what Ms. DeVos is referring to here. There is the 19-page 2011“Dear Colleague” letter, which was fairly straightforward. In the event that there was any confusion about that guidance, the Education Department in 2014 issued a detailed “Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence” document, which provided straightforward answers to common questions regarding institutional handling of sexual-violence complaints.

Schneider pulls a sentence from a speech, proclaims his inability to grasp what it could be talking about, then mounts his best argument by characterizing the Guidance as “fairly straightforward,” thus proving that it’s totally easy to understand and navigate. There ya go.

To his credit, Schneider does what many have not, almost properly quotes the only Supreme Court opinion that creates any Title IX implication in campus sex adjudication at all.

With respect to harassment, the definition recognized by both Republican and Democratic administrations as well as the Supreme Court for almost 20 years has been: “conduct of a sexual nature that is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive to limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the education program, or to create a hostile or abusive educational environment.” The 2011 letter did not change that definition.

The correct quote from Davis v. Monroe County Board of Ed is “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive,” but what’s a few words and a conjunctive between friends? It does, however, reveal the depth of Schneider’s disingenuous spin. It’s the sort of argument that a federal judge would be constrained to either spend 20 pages ripping to shreds or dismiss with one word, frivolous, followed by the next word, sanctionable.

But Schneider can’t be blamed for being who he is. Kelderman, on the other hand, deserves the blame for his pretense of being a journalist while posting this crap. The Chronicle of Higher Education is on the “survivor” team and hates due process and the black guys whose lives are being ruined by their devotion to “believe the victim”?

Fair enough. But then, be honest enough to say that you’re not a fair reporter, that you’re just as much of an insipid shill as Schneider, and that your rag will present false arguments and claims in furtherance of your political agenda. Even the Chronicle of Higher Education is allowed to promote its politics, its cause. What it is not allowed to do is pretend it has integrity when doing so. Say whatever you want, but then be honest enough to admit that you’re just another shill for a cause, making people as stupid as necessary to buy whatever crap you’re selling.

And don’t ask me to spend my time deconstructing gibberish.

3 thoughts on “The Unpleasant Burden Of Deconstructing Gibberish

  1. B. McLeod

    Sadly, it is not a mere pretense. These days, shills with political agendas are lovingly accepted within the ranks of “journalists.” “Journalist” now more often means “shill with a political agenda” than anything else. Writers who can be counted on to objectively deal with facts have become the exception.

  2. Sgt. Schultz

    My first thought after reading Schneider’s op-ed was that he was just another slutty self-aggrandizing moron. But then I read his bio and learned that he says he’s a

    nationally recognized professional on higher education legal issues and institutional response to sex assault.

    Very impressive self-description. This changes everything.

    1. SHG Post author

      My experience is that when someone is actually nationally recognized, they don’t have to tell people that because they’re nationally recognized.

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