Saturday, August 1, 2015

Janet Napolitano's Testimony Before Congress on Campus Sexual Assault

Hat tip Daily Californian

This week, University of California President Janet Napolitano testified before Congress on the issue of campus sexual assault. UC Berkeley's campus paper, The Daily Californian, had an article with a summary of Napolitano's statement.

Here is the text of Napolitano's statement itself.

Predictably, Napolitano's statement made no reference to the role of alcohol and binge drinking at or near campuses. It is a major factor, which people on campus, whether they be students, faculty or administrators seem willing to discuss. I have to suspect the reason behind that is it might call into question the sobriety, actions, degree of consent and actions of the victim.

Instead, it seems to me that the discussion of sexual assault on campus is held in a void. In other words, what are the conditions that lead to these incidents happening? Are our campuses infested with male rapists lurking in the bushes late at night waiting to attack a co-ed on her way to her dorm? In that case, aren't the universities responsible for not better screening applicants? Actually, I don't think that is the issue.

I find it incomprehensible that alcohol is not mentioned either in Napolitano's statement in the hearing or in the Daily Californian article. (Hopefully, Napolitano addressed it during the q and a.) We know that serious binge drinking parties occur on or near college campuses. Is there no connection between the two? Of course there is.

Make no mistake: I regard rape and any other form of sexual assault as a heinous crime. Even if a woman is inebriated that is no license to take advantage of her. Real men would assist her and make sure she gets home safely.

I am also concerned about these "confidential advocates" that would enjoy the privilege of confidentiality. Rape is a criminal offense, and for better or worse, rules of evidence come into play. What happens if one of these advocates is given information that would help the accused or discredit the accuser? We have already seen too many incidents where accused men are treated as convicted by the university in question. The more notorious cases of Duke and the University of Virginia come immediately to mind. Once the incident occurs, I believe it should be placed in the hands of the professionals-the police.

I understand the wish of the universities to aid the victims of sexual assault on campus. Indeed, they have an obligation to do so. At the same time, they need to make sure they don't complicate the work of the police. If a student is actually arrested and charged and/or convicted, they can and should be be expelled. I don't see the purpose of holding campus hearings with the accused as defendant. If the person is accused of a crime, and there is sufficient evidence to bring it to trial that is the proper avenue-not some student or faculty-run star chamber.

The universities have proven over and over that in spite of the best intentions, they are not equipped to deal with this issue. In the case of UC, they have adopted the absurd new California law that is referred to as, "Yes Means Yes", by which explicit permission must be given by the woman for each physical act that leads to intercourse (removal of bra, touching of body part etc). If you think that is going to solve anything, wait till these cases start being tried in court.

The best thing the universities can do is:

1 Educate and prevent binge drinking parties. (That is much easier to on campus than off.)

2 Honestly and openly bring the role of alcohol and other drugs and their connections to this problem into the discussion.

3 Let the police handle the complaints. Interfering or trying to conduct parallel inquiries only complicates the issue and can create legal problems in court.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

This seems sensible... but it may be worth noting that universities are under pressure akin to the pressure placed on property owners not to allow crime on their property. This has its place of course -- particularly when it is egregious and complicity is obvious, like a landlord accepting rent from known drug dealers who flagrantly do their business but stay just outside of direct police observation that might lead to a warrant, or, a beloved sports coach engaged in serial molestation is given a pass.

But, there is also pressure which implies that legal adults who no longer live with mom and dad and certainly do NOT want the university administration telling them what to do in any in loco parentis sense, still believe (as do their parents) that the university is responsible to provide them a perfect crime free life, like most homeowners in the inner city enjoy. That fallacy bears some looking into also.

Gary Fouse said...

That's why they have campus police.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Yes, and campus police can do about as much as any police can do -- no more, no less.

Also, campus police have to develop a case containing evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to get a conviction, which is as it should be. But that's what you were just saying.