It’s hardly acceptable, but at least the targets of accusations of sexual offense in the workplace are adults. Sure, they may be punished, lose jobs, have careers ruined, be the subject of hatred and scorn, despite the absence of anything more than an allegation, even an anonymous accusation, of vague impropriety. It could range from something serious and real to something trivial and fabricated.
But they’re grown-ups. They have learned to take a punch. The victims at Middlebury are kids.
Last year [meaning a month ago], the rise of #MeToo spawned a crowdsourced document known as the Shitty Media Men list. This was a Google spreadsheet, shared by women working in media, in which anyone could name powerful male industry figures whose offenses ranged from alleged rape to creepy comments.
Yes, even those “creepy comments” which are so traumatizing to the self-proclaimed fierce women.
College campuses are now grappling with similar scenarios, with the movement emboldening student activists to speak out and identify those they believe have committed sexual assault and harassment — even if it’s unverified. Relying on these informal channels, rather than reporting to campus officials, speaks to a broken system and frustrated students who do not trust administrators, survivor activists said in interviews.
At Middlebury College, the campus has been in tumult for the last few weeks, starting when one student posted on Facebook the names of more than 30 men whom she accused of rape, emotional abuse, “emotional manipulation” and more.
Thirty. And “more.”
Those are some very serious accusations, as well as some very unserious accusations. Regardless, male students were named. What did Middlebury have to say about this?
Middlebury has declined to comment on Dunn and the list because of federal privacy laws.
Privacy? That horse was long since out of the barn. And the student who named names, because trauma, unclear as it may be that this was hers or merely her spreading of rumors and gossip from others?
In an email to campus after Dunn posted to Facebook, the college wrote that public allegations “should not take the place of established procedures.” The email encouraged those who felt they had been wrongly accused to contact the college’s Judicial Affairs officers.
That horse too. And even those who earn their money by being “survivors'” most supportive advocates were constrained to offer this tepid warning.
The list potentially could create a hostile environment for the men named in it, which is prohibited under Title IX, [NCHERM’s Scott] Lewis said.
Being named as a serial rapist could potentially create a hostile environment? Go figure. That this happens comes as no surprise, as this was the path of least resistance well in advance of the #MeToo movement. That it has come to pass, in spades, should hardly shock anyone.
But is there anything to be done about it? Can the innocent male refute the accusations? Can the craziest female get away with it? There is always a suit for defamation, but it’s not as availing as one might think.
First, the students accused will become pariahs on their campus, at best tainted by nothing more than being called “rapist,” or, god forbid, “emotional manipulator.” Will the balance of their college experience be spent in meetings with lawyers, in depositions and maybe in courtrooms? Is that what they went to college to do?
And even so, there’s the “you can’t get blood from a rock” problem. Unless Elizabeth Dunn happens to be independently wealthy, the expectation of receiving damages on the back end is slim. A lawyer won’t take the case on contingency. A litigant, after years of the unpleasantness and burden of being involved in litigation, will walk away with a worthless judgment.
And astoundingly, Inside Higher Education’s take on this problem isn’t that 30 men, in this one instance from Middlebury, were baselessly smeared on Facebook, but how to more effectively assure that the “survivors” inflict damage.
“If you want true consequence to happen, bring it to the people who enforce the rules and investigate this — pass that information on,” he said.
Institutions that possess the names of students who have been publicly accused of sexual assault should ask equally publicly for survivors to come forward — and promise confidentiality, a fair disciplinary process and, to the extent possible, strong support, Carter said.
“This would evidence a meaningful effort to comply with the law, make the campus safer and do so in a way that does not chill reporting or further harm survivors,” he said.
In other words, the rank accusation of a heinous offense that results in public condemnation falls short of the harm these Title IX advocates demand; they must be expelled as well. This, too, is nothing new.
In 2014, names of men accused of rape were scrawled onto bathroom walls and on fliers at Columbia University, prompting national headlines. At Columbia spokesman at the time declined to comment “to avoid chilling complainants from coming forward and to respect all parties involved.”
Needless to add, even after adjudication clearing a young man at Columbia of wrongdoing, it didn’t stop a United States Senator from calling him a rapist and bringing his purported “victim” to the State of the Union address.
If you happen to be a parent of one of the 30 male students named by Dunn, you may well appreciate the impropriety of having some random person destroy your child’s reputation, his college experience, perhaps worse, on Facebook in the whirl of women freed from the constraints of facts, reason and process.
If you happen to be a parent of a young man in college, or going to college, you need to have the talk. As bad as the process of Title IX adjudications was, this next step in the process of destroying lives with unproven public accusations enjoys the support of the mindless yet traumatized.
Before, they were subject to a subconstitutional system. Now, it’s no system at all. They’ll just be taken out back and burned at the stake. And their colleges will happily accept your tuition payments while awaiting the opportunity to destroy their lives.