Rebecca Blank’s Self-Created Cephus Dilemma (Update)

The jury swiftly found expelled University of Wisconsin student and football player Quintez Cephus not guilty. In a better world, that might be the end of the misery he’s been put through by the false rape accusations, but in a woke world, that’s not how it works.

No matter what UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank decides, she will be criticized.

Former Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Quintez Cephus, who was expelled from the university last semester after being accused by two women of sexual assault but was acquitted of those charges by a Dane County jury earlier this month, has petitioned for readmission to the university. The decision is up to Blank, who will likely face blowback from either black community leaders or sexual assault victims and advocates.

If your reaction to this problem is, “So what? Adults in decision-making positions have to make tough calls and often get criticized. Big deal,” then you have failed the test for UW chancellor.

Blank must consider the ramifications for two groups who often face skepticism: African-Americans who are disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system and women who believe they are victims of sexual assault.

“Must” she? It’s not quite the same as the law of gravity, which keeps people down. Rather, the question is whether Blank views her duty as one of principle or one of accommodation. It’s only a “must” concern if one chooses to make it so.

“The chancellor cannot make any decision that is satisfying,” said retired University of Cincinnati professor Francis Cullen, whose research focuses on campus sexual assaults.

“Usually (universities) would side with the victim, but when you throw race in, that’s going to make it more difficult,” Cullen said. “You’re talking about two disadvantaged groups and now they’re intersecting in this case. It makes it much more politically risky for the chancellor. She’s between a rock and a hard place.”

What’s revealed isn’t some legitimate intersectional concern, but the intersectional demand that she appease all sides. This isn’t possible when the underlying concept reflects the inherent conflicts and untenability of the ideology. Indeed, the rhetoric begins with “side with the victim,” when there is no victim except Cephus, the victim of false accusations. Are false accusers a “disadvantaged group”? If so, they earned it.

On the one hand, there is the empirically proven fact that black males are disproportionately targeted by the criminal law system. Then again, this wasn’t Cephus taken down by some racially profiling cowboy cops, but by female students who indulged their post-sex regret. While this may constitute rape in the minds of the unduly passionate, an adult should know better. Clearly a jury did.

On the other hand, there are “women who believe they are victims of sexual assault.” The key word is “believe,” which covers a wealth of sins. Some are. Some aren’t. But is believing they are close enough to offer “thoughts and prayers”? Of course it is. How can you be so unempathetic?

But then there’s the time problem. If Cephus were to transfer out of UW to another college, he would lose eligibility to play football for a year under NCAA rules. If he wants to be drafted by the NFL, a very real possibility for him, then he needs two more years on the field to both show his chops and overcome the taint of the accusation so that his subsequent team isn’t shredded by the omniscient mob, for whom a jury acquittal means even less than the presumption of innocence.

For Quintez Cephus, time matters. For Chancellor Blank, however, time is relative.

There is no deadline by which Blank must decide, according to university spokesman John Lucas. He said a decision will be issued as soon as a thorough and complete review can be completed.

So can Blank dodge the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune by sitting on the decision until everyone who remembers what they are fighting about moves on to the next squirrel? That could prove disastrous to Cephus, who has already suffered enough potential disaster as he sat facing the jury on false accusations.

That’s where the threat of a renewed federal action under Title IX comes into play. If Blank refuses to make a timely decision, she leaves Cephus’ lawyers without options if he’s not to be ruined by attrition.

Cephus had previously filed a lawsuit against the university, claiming it violated his federal civil rights by pursuing its investigation while a criminal proceeding was ongoing. The lawsuit claims that Cephus was unable to defend himself during the investigation without violating his Fifth Amendment right to silence.

Miltenberg declined to say whether the lawsuit would be refiled if Cephus is not readmitted, but said “all options remain on the table.”

Of course, the standard of proof is substantially reduced at a Title IX sex tribunal, and he was already expelled. But that raises yet another of the conflicts that fail to make it onto the mob’s radar.

Cephus was facing criminal prosecution and a UW Title IX hearing. To explain what happened to the latter was to be compelled to forfeit his Fifth Amendment privilege in the former. Either he remained silent to not prejudice his defense in real court or waived it to defend himself in kangaroo court. Now that’s a serious decision, unlike the one Chancellor Blank faces.

Of course, the alternative to Chancellor Blank seeing this as a “lose-lose” proposition between competing groups is to make a principled decision based on the fact that Cephus was tried and acquitted, and is just as entitled to educational opportunity as those who falsely accused him. He should be readmitted, not because he’s black and not because the victim-believers won’t shriek, but because he’s not guilty of any sexual misconduct. That’s reason enough.

Update: Chanceller Blank has split the baby:

As a result of this review, sanctions for Quintez Cephus have been reduced and his expulsion lifted. There were findings of responsibility of the student non-academic misconduct code that were upheld.

Mr. Cephus has been reinstated as a UW–Madison student, effective immediately.

So still guilty, but not expelled, meaning that there remains open questions about whether Cephus should seek damages and expungement of his record in court. Unfortunately, his criminal lawyer, Stephen Meyer, didn’t help his client by using this as a self-aggrandizing moment even if it compromised his client’s interests.

14 thoughts on “Rebecca Blank’s Self-Created Cephus Dilemma (Update)

  1. KP

    ” He should be readmitted, not because he’s black and not because the victim-believers won’t shriek, but because he’s not guilty of any sexual misconduct.”
    That’s just so unwoke…. You need to get out of the real world more Boss…

  2. Nagita

    Even if you don’t believe in the presumption of innocence you probably should at least allow for the possibility. Maybe ‘possibly not guilty’ is a more palatable term.

    1. SHG Post author

      It might be more palatable as a palliative to the inherently conflicted, but legally and logically it is clearly a really bad idea. No, this is not an invitation to discuss why.

  3. Rensselaer

    “Cephus was facing criminal prosecution and a UW Title IX hearing. To explain what happened to the latter was to be compelled to forfeit his Fifth Amendment privilege in the former. Either he remained silent to not prejudice his defense in real court or waived it to defend himself in kangaroo court. Now that’s a serious decision, unlike the one Chancellor Blank faces.”

    This is one of those little wrinkles that shows the folks in OCR who drafted the Dear Colleague Letter specifically wanted to move handling sexual assault issues away from the criminal justice system, or at best case were so reckless as to ignore the consequences that their preferred manner of proceedings would have on other aspects of life, including REAL judicial process. The OCR interpretation of Title IX required effectively no evidentiary rules except a vaguely defined preponderance standard and trauma-informed, and also required that claims be addressed quickly because they need to get the rapists off campus and the victim’s feeling of safety is paramount. Which, if there actually was a rape, means the alleged rapist may have to testify less than a month after the incident, a time at which for purposes of the criminal justice system charges may not have even been brought. And the criminal justice system as protections like the Fifth Amendment.

    How did this happen? Why were people with such minimal foresight, or even deliberate blindness, given such a role? Why didn’t someone higher up in the DoE slap this down as soon as the glaringly obvious problems came to light? Why was one of the women responsible for this disaster then effectively rewarded for it with the seat of Chair on the U.S. Commission for Civil Rights, besmirching one of the few institutions we have which should be above partisan reproach? Will we soon be hearing an advisory resolution from the Commission that Bill of Rights freedoms should be construed in light of Title IX?

    This whole episode is a stellar demonstration of why the use of guidance and interpretive letters should in some manner be curtailed, and I say that having generally agreed with Justice Kagan’s opinion in Kisor v. Wilkie. An actual notice-and-comment rulemaking procedure under the APA would have likely caught issues like this because it specifically tries to get as much input as possible from a wide array of stakeholders (which also has the virtue of being more democratic), as opposed to one or a couple of self-deigned geniuses creating a system out of whole cloth while blinded by groupthink.

  4. Pedantic Grammar Police

    “the question is whether Blank views her duty as one of principle or one of accommodation.”

    If Blank was the kind of person who makes decisions based on principle, she would have been weeded out long before she rose to the level of Chancellor.

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