Title IX, Betsy DeVos, ‘Balance’

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The Trump administration announced today that it is rescinding Obama-era school sexual assault guidance and issuing a question-and-answer document while a formal review is undertaken.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said a new direction is needed to balance the rights of the victims and the accused, and said in a statement today, “As I said earlier this month, the era of rule by letter is over.” The highly contentious shift under Title IX affects all the nation’s colleges, universities and K-12 schools.

Ok. I’ll wade out into the deep water again. I do not pretend that I understand every last nuance. But I did spend 12 years living in or near a major college town. I have heard. I have read. I have spoken. I have debated. But, that said, I will try to stick just to my principles:

1) A crime is a crime. I do not think we need new crimes in this instance. The level of proof in a crime is ‘beyond all reasonable doubt.’ I do not believe that should change, or be seen to change.

2) Is there a problem with men misbehaving in life, let alone campus? Yes. Should it be a consideration that men are generally, physically stronger than women? If women can get over that fact, then my answer is ‘yes.’ Do I accept that there is a possibility that, for this or other reasons, there is a likelihood that acts of sexual misbehavior by men are under-reported? Yes. Should we do something about this? Yes. Oh. And should this include sexual acts by men against men? Yes.

3) If there is a preponderance of evidence that a particular college or school is ignoring the concerns set out in (2), should the funding for said college or school be affected? I would say ‘yes.’ How? Don’t have a clue.

4) Am I happy with the notion that there be some sort of ‘lesser’ proof, involved in some forum other than criminal? In this regard, we have had some sort of experience of this in the college town in which I lived for 12 years, being Chapel Hill, NC (seat of the University of North Carolina).

I would say this. If two parties decide they want to settle a difference between them by mutually agreeing to some sort of forum other than criminal, then that is their business.

I do not believe that there should be any process that forces this on one or other of the two parties. And, if they do agree mutually to this alternative forum, then they have to abide by its outcome. Including any non-disclosure agreement.

In the case of UNC, if my memory serves me correct. There was some form of alternative forum. One of the parties (if not both) did not like the outcome. They then broke the non-disclosure agreement. Seriously affecting one or other or both of the parties. And one of the parties sued as a consequence. And there was an outcry.

Beyond that, I am in some difficulty over any concept which withholds funding from a college or school because it does not introduce a mandated form of process which demands ‘lesser proof’ for misbehavior involving sexual assault and which process has the power to levy a punishment upon an accused which has about it the appearance of criminal punishment.

As for sexual harassment. We have laws already. They are and should be extraordinarily subjective.

For all the reasons mentioned above, and from my own experience as an advocate, in corporate and non-profit situations, a man needs to be doubly and triply careful never, ever to behave in a way with women (or men), especially if alone with a woman (or man), that can be misinterpreted by the woman (or man) as harassment. The ‘both being drunk’ dictum does not and should not apply.

It is incumbent upon colleges and schools to make this concept absolutely clear in an affirmative action policy. Absolutely clear. Clear about what is harassment. Clear about the subjectivity. Clear about the consequences.

If a woman (or man) complains about being harassed by a man. And there is no third party witness. The accuser’s complaint has precedence over the accused. Period. The accused should be reprimanded. Without exception.

If a college or school does not have in place such an affirmative action policy, expressed in these blunt terms, then it should suffer the consequences.

Should the reverse be true? As in, can men complain about sexual harassment by women? Yes. Should the same consequences apply? Probably not. Why? Again, at the risk of incurring the wrath of feminists, um, grow up.

The fact is men are assholes. They can create far more harm with their sexual misbehavior towards women (or gay men) than the reverse. Sometimes, you just have to argue nature in order to get an appropriately judicious outcome.

If there are any feminists (or, indeed, gay advocacy groups) out there who find fault with my reasoning, then you shouldn’t be pushing for Title IX in the first place. It is necessarily subjective. In favor of women (and, I would argue, gay men). I support that. Sometimes, you just have to let a guy open a frigging door for you. Get over it.

One last point. What about women who find themselves alone with a guy? Sigh. Don’t? We’re talking college. These things happen. It’s not always possible for a woman (or a gay man) just to walk out. It is always possible for a guy (the ‘active’ guy) to do the decent thing and back off. For that reason, some sort of subjectivity has to exist. But within reason. With balance.

A sensible forum, whether criminal or not, will be able to determine that reason, that balance. We have to trust something.

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Published in: on September 23, 2017 at 1:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

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