April 24th, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
There used to be a saying, a joke really, with a point to make. My memory of it isn’t perfect, but it went something like this: a conservative is a liberal who’s just been mugged; a liberal is a conservative who’s just lost his job. Or words to that effect. So in the same vein, I guess a fathers’/men’s rights activist is a feminist who had this happen to her son (Wall Street Journal, 4/16/13).
I am a feminist. I have marched at the barricades, subscribed to Ms. magazine, and knocked on many a door in support of progressive candidates committed to women’s rights. Until a month ago, I would have expressed unqualified support for Title IX and for the Violence Against Women Act.
But that was before my son, a senior at a small liberal-arts college in New England, was charged—by an ex-girlfriend—with alleged acts of “nonconsensual sex” that supposedly occurred during the course of their relationship a few years earlier.
What followed was a nightmare—a fall through Alice’s looking-glass into a world that I could not possibly have believed existed, least of all behind the ivy-covered walls thought to protect an ostensible dedication to enlightenment and intellectual betterment.
It began with a text of desperation. “CALL ME. URGENT. NOW.”
“Could not possibly have believed existed…”? Really? Ms. Grossman is a feminist who doesn’t know what much feminism consists of. The idea that she has a son in college and didn’t know about the feminist-inspired and backed attacks on male sexuality, particularly on college campuses beggars belief. After all, how long has it been since we heard about The Antioch Rules under which every male student must obtain clear verbal assent to every single thing he does with a woman. Failure to do so can result in academic discipline up to and including expulsion. “Is it perfume from a dress that makes me so digress?”
Needless to say, no woman on Antioch’s campus need do the same toward her male date. That’s because, in the time-honored feminist tradition, women are deemed incapable of any form of sexual offense against men, but men are pretty much walking rape machines.
So Ms. Grossman wants us to believe that, highly intelligent, highly educated feminist that she is, she’s never heard of the Antioch rules or the agitprop that passes for education about healthy male/female relationships on college campuses. She claims to be a shocking revelation the “Dear Colleague” letter sent to every college and university in the land by the director of the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, feminist Russlyn Ali, last year informing them that henceforth allegations of sexual assault must be adjudicated by campus officials using the lowest standard of evidence in American jurisprudence, that of a “preponderance of evidence.” This informed feminist pretends that she’s never heard of the many cases of false allegations or the railroading of men off campus and sometimes into prison. She claims she doesn’t know about the more than 100 separate organizations that have spoken out against Russlyn Ali’s “Dear Colleague” letter.
I, for one, am not buying it. Her WSJ piece comes directly under the heading of the famous line from “Casablanca.” Grossman is “shocked, shocked!” at the news that college campuses are traps for male students accused of even the slightest sexual impropriety.
Still, she’s writing in the pages of a very influential and widely-read newspaper, so her “discovery” that campus sexual assault policies come close to Stalinism in their “guilty till proven innocent” mindset is welcome.
That was how my son informed me that not only had charges been brought against him but that he was ordered to appear to answer these allegations in a matter of days. There was no preliminary inquiry on the part of anyone at the school into these accusations about behavior alleged to have taken place a few years earlier, no consideration of the possibility that jealousy or revenge might be motivating a spurned young ex-lover to lash out. Worst of all, my son would not be afforded a presumption of innocence.
In fact, Title IX, that so-called guarantor of equality between the sexes on college campuses, and as applied by a recent directive from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, has obliterated the presumption of innocence that is so foundational to our traditions of justice. On today’s college campuses, neither “beyond a reasonable doubt,” nor even the lesser “by clear and convincing evidence” standard of proof is required to establish guilt of sexual misconduct.
These safeguards of due process have, by order of the federal government, been replaced by what is known as “a preponderance of the evidence.” What this means, in plain English, is that all my son’s accuser needed to establish before a campus tribunal is that the allegations were “more likely than not” to have occurred by a margin of proof that can be as slim as 50.1% to 49.9%.
How does this campus tribunal proceed to evaluate the accusations? Upon what evidence is it able to make a judgment?
The frightening answer is that like the proverbial 800-pound gorilla, the tribunal does pretty much whatever it wants, showing scant regard for fundamental fairness, due process of law, and the well-established rules and procedures that have evolved under the Constitution for citizens’ protection. Who knew that American college students are required to surrender the Bill of Rights at the campus gates?
My son was given written notice of the charges against him, in the form of a letter from the campus Title IX officer. But instead of affording him the right to be fully informed, the separately listed allegations were a barrage of vague statements, rendering any defense virtually impossible. The letter lacked even the most basic information about the acts alleged to have happened years before. Nor were the allegations supported by any evidence other than the word of the ex-girlfriend.
The hearing itself was a two-hour ordeal of unabated grilling by the school’s committee, during which, my son later reported, he was expressly denied his request to be represented by counsel or even to have an attorney outside the door of the room. The questioning, he said, ran far afield even from the vaguely stated allegations contained in the so-called notice. Questions from the distant past, even about unrelated matters, were flung at him with no opportunity for him to give thoughtful answers.
The many pages of written documentation that my son had put together—which were directly on point about his relationship with his accuser during the time period of his alleged wrongful conduct—were dismissed as somehow not relevant. What was relevant, however, according to the committee, was the unsworn testimony of “witnesses” deemed to have observable knowledge about the long-ago relationship between my son and his accuser.
That the recollections of these young people (made under intense peer pressure and with none of the safeguards consistent with fundamental fairness) were relevant—while records of the accuser’s email and social media postings were not—made a mockery of the very term. While my son was instructed by the committee not to “discuss this matter” with any potential witnesses, these witnesses against him were not identified to him, nor was he allowed to confront or question either them or his accuser.
And that, my friends, is a pretty fair summary of what’s laughingly called “due process” regarding allegations of sexual misconduct on campus. It’s a perfect description of a system that’s designed to do one thing – convict. Noon is a dark time on campus these days.
And of course, lest anyone think the consequences of said system stop at the campus gates, think again. The accused is essentially required to defend himself and without access to an attorney, so he’ll likely say a lot to try to clear his name. What he probably doesn’t know is that, if he’s ever brought before a criminal tribunal, every word he said at the college hearing can be used against him in the criminal trial.
Grossman is an attorney and was able to help her son through his Star Chamber ordeal without punishment. Good for her. Better is her “death row” conversion.
I am also keenly aware not only of how easily this all could have gone the other way—with life-altering consequences—but how all too often it does…
I fear that in the current climate the goal of “women’s rights,” with the compliance of politically motivated government policy and the tacit complicity of college administrators, runs the risk of grounding our most cherished institutions in a veritable snake pit of injustice—not unlike the very injustices the movement itself has for so long sought to correct. Unbridled feminist orthodoxy is no more the answer than are attitudes and policies that victimize the victim.
Has her son’s experience truly made her understand her own complicity in it? She’s a feminist, so what was she doing while Russlyn Ali and countless other feminists were doing everything in their power to make sexual assault an ever broader term and sexual assault claims ever easier to prove? Did she, as part of her activist zeal, ever write a letter to NOW, to Ms., to any of the feminist organizations that blatantly demand one set of standards for the sexual behavior of men and another for that of women? She’s a lawyer, so what’s she done about false claims of domestic or sexual abuse as part of a campaign to deny children real, ongoing relationships with their fathers?
We hear a lot from feminists to the effect that there’s a Great Silent Majority of them who aren’t radical, who don’t hate men, who would never lie about domestic violence, the wage gap, patriarchy, the “rape culture,” etc. But the fact is that if there were that many feminists who differed from what feminism has become, well, it wouldn’t have become what it is. Grossman’s anguish is real enough, but only because it was her son whose head was on the block. Had it been another young man’s – and it has been far more than she has any idea – she’d have ignored it completely.
But of course, that’s how the fathers’ and men’s rights movements get so many of their adherents. Second wives of fathers who pay too much child support but don’t get to see their kids, or who pay alimony to an ex who wouldn’t dream of getting a job and off the gravy train are a constant stream of new recruits for us. Mothers whose sons find themselves the victims of paternity fraud or see their children adopted away without their consent are too. And of course there are many others.
Judith Grossman should be ashamed of herself. She was always oh-so aware of injustice except when it was done to others and when it was done by those on “her side.” It’s only when her ox is gored that she wakes up and sees what she and her comrades have wrought over the years.
On the other hand, at least she sees it now and wrote a piece for millions to see about her tardy epiphany.
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