August 1, 2014

Campus Life: Men as the Accused

Congress has to “do something” about the exaggerated epidemic of sexual assault.

It’s been widely reported of late that college females have a one-in-five chance of being sexually assaulted. Of course, with the prevalence of alcohol-soaked parties, the likelihood of intoxicated young people engaging in regrettable acts is always present. And in the eyes of the politically correct, the men are always to blame.

To believe otherwise can get you into trouble. Washington Post columnist George Will found himself in hot water for challenging assumptions when citing evidence that, even with the under-reporting included, the assault rate is closer to one woman in 36. Will wasn’t minimizing assault (and neither are we); he was simply noting it wasn’t an epidemic.

Because this is the way things are done in America these days, it fell to Congress to “do something” about it. And they’re giving it the old college try, though they’re using the flawed and exaggerated statistics as justification, much like they did with sexual assault in the military earlier this year.

A bipartisan group of senators introduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA), which promises more paperwork for campus administrators, more positions to fill as the bill mandates “confidential advisers” with whom victims can speak (the bill repeatedly uses the word “victim” rather than accuser), and further trampling of the due process rights of the accused. Of course, there are no advisers or support groups for accused young men, who are innocent until proven guilty but whose lives can be ruined by what they thought was a consensual if drunken romp. The purpose of the bill is to help colleges “rid their campuses of sexual predators,” which portends a witch hunt.

Another problem with the bill is the requirement that colleges be annually surveyed on their progress in reporting and investigating sexual assaults on campus, with the results made public. While many colleges experience few such assaults per year, the pressure will be on them to bring cases forward regardless of the evidence – and to seek convictions.

This whole process began when a Senate subcommittee released a report claiming 41% of institutions didn’t conduct a single investigation of on-campus sexual assault over the last five years. That study, of course, flew in the face of the one-in-five conventional wisdom promulgated by such documents as a White House report earlier this year.

Yet if the rate is exaggerated due to easily manipulated questions favoring a certain result, and due to sampling of only large, urban college campuses like Ohio State, it’s quite possible that many hundreds of smaller institutions may not have had a single case. Given the other concerns we’re grappling with right now, a federal law dealing with campus sexual assault may not be the most pressing need.

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