Justin Dillon wrote an op-ed for the Chronicle of Higher Education about the proposed changes in Title IX sex adjudication, which opened with a curious line.
Thank God for Betsy DeVos.
It’s not clear what God has to do with it, nor even DeVos, for that matter. The changes are a fairly tepid undoing of a radical and subconstitutional system unilaterally created by an unelected bureaucrat who abused her position to ram her agenda down the throats of American universities based upon a series of lies that took decades to become the accepted narrative. But that was Justin’s choice, to open by thanking God, and to thank God for Betsy DeVos.
With the release on Friday of the proposed new rules for adjudicating campus sexual-misconduct cases, the education secretary has taken an important step toward restoring common sense and sanity in how these cases are handled.
This follow-up line holds up no better. Common sense is the palliative phrase of people for whom thinking is too much trouble, and there was nothing insane about what Catherine Lhamon wrought. It was quite brilliant and effective, no matter how contrary to due process. She wanted to create a system where women would prevail and men would not, and managed to make it happen. Malevolent and Machiavellian, but by no means insane.
But then, this was Justin’s op-ed, not mine, and he’s entitled to express his views, and express them in whatever way he chooses. Whether I agree (which I mostly do,* even if he expressed things in different ways than I would) or not has no bearing on his right to speak his mind and should I, or you, or anyone, disagree with Justin, then criticize him all you want. This is America.
A letter to the editor of the Chronicle, however, reveals a different approach. It’s not about agreeing or disagreeing. It’s about how Justin’s op-ed, in itself, traumatizes “survivors.” And then it digs one level deeper, accusing the Chronicle of Higher Education, which has shown little reluctance to hide its institutional bias, of siding with rapists for publishing an op-ed that was traumatizing to “survivors.”
We, a group of current student-affairs professionals, want to highlight some specific quotes and explain why they are at issue.
“Thank God for Betsy DeVos.”
This proposal has been criticized by sexual assault survivors, advocates, and Title IX coordinators as being anti-survivor. Saying that we should “Thank God for Betsy DeVos” ignores the negative impact that this proposal will have on survivors.
This also ignores the total harm that DeVos has done to the rights of transgender, gender non-conforming individuals, low-income students, and students of color.
The opening sentence said, well, nothing of substance. It was a throw-away line, and even as such, it was vapid. That four “current student-affairs professionals” found it sufficiently awful to be worthy of attack because it “ignores the negative impact” is astoundingly vacuous.
Even worse, that an expression of appreciation for DeVos “ignores” the unmentioned “total harm” to a list of preferred students begs the question, thus doubling the fallaciousness of their “logic.” Has she “harmed” the rights of students of color falsely accused of rape? They might not think so.
In a world where sexual assault survivors rarely get justice and the higher-education system has repeatedly intimidated survivors, protected assaulters, and not followed the Title IX process, this essay only does more damage to the Title IX process. The publication of this essay by The Chronicle puts its stance of supporting survivors in question and will be a mark on its reputation. We worry that sexual assault survivors, whether they are students, faculty, or staff, will feel traumatized and unsupported by this article.
It’s one thing to argue that a victim is traumatized by rape. It’s another to argue that an accuser is traumatized by being put to the burden of proof of their accusation. It’s another still to argue that an expression of reasons why a system deliberately designed to deprive the accused of basic due process may traumatize “survivors” because it doesn’t “support” their outcome.
And how dare the Chronicle, by publishing Justin’s traumatizing words, “put its stance of supporting survivors in question.” Is it not their duty to promote only the interests of “survivors”?
If four “current student-affairs professionals” feel compelled to put their flagrant, if vapid, bias on display, that’s entirely their choice. Mind you, should any student be accused at one of their colleges and they play a role, any role, in the adjudication of guilt, this letter to the editor can and should be used to demonstrate their prejudice.
But the crux of their attack is that they can tolerate no dispute with their position. Nor can they tolerate the Chronicle of Higher Education publishing a challenge, and it will be a “mark on its reputation.” It’s not just that Justin is bad for saying it, but the Chronicle is bad for publishing it, because words of disagreement are, themselves, traumatic.
*There’s invariably a self-promotional aspect to these op-eds. The odor is unpleasant and unmistakable.