A professor at Austin Community College tweeted that he would “be OK if #BetsyDevos was sexually assaulted” because of her intentions to change the guidelines for how colleges handle sexual assault.
Rob Ranco, who is an adjunct professor of paralegal studies, posted the tweet on Friday. It has since been deleted, but not before a screenshot was obtained by Campus Reform. It stated, in full:
“I’m not wishing for it… but I’d be ok if #BetsyDevos was sexually assaulted. #SexualAssault #TitleIX”
Ranco then followed it with what seems to be some attempts at explanation:
“Perhaps Betsy doesn’t understand how horrible rape is. She’s made the world more dangerous for my daughters. I need her to understand.”
“Yes, @twitter. My words were harsh. I don’t wish harm on anyone. I wish there’s some way #BetsyDevos would understand and care about others.”
He also jokingly tweeted that “Twitter trolls are now due process experts! Priceless. #TitleIX”.
Ranco’s tweets, of course, have faced a lot of criticism. His account (@RancoLaw) is not on Twitter anymore and a spokesperson from the school issued a statement to Campus Reform saying that the school “does not condone these comments and their sentiment.” I’ve got to say, I’m really wondering just what in the hell this guy could have been thinking.
Now, I do understand that there are a lot of problems with the way that we treat victims of rape and sexual assault in this culture. It’s disgusting, but it’s true: There are far too many people who would rather just write off all accusers as being opportunistic liars than actually try to understand what it must feel like to be in a rape victim’s position — to understand, for example, how issues like shame and/or power dynamics might prevent a woman from reporting her assault to the police. It’s very, very important to educate people on this issue. It’s also important, however, to acknowledge the plain and simple fact that current Title IX guidelines have created a few problems of their own.
As Reason’s Robby Soave points out, people who are critical of Betsy DeVos for wanting to alter the guidelines should stop and think about the fact “that every crazy Title IX case she referenced actually happened.” Rape is a serious issue, which is exactly why it should be handled in a serious manner — for the sake of everyone involved. After all, as Soave explains, campus kangaroo courts not only force the accused to act as their own defense attorneys, but they also can force victims to have to act as their own prosecutors. It allows for situations such as what happened at Stony Brook in New York, where an accuser had to face and question her alleged rapist herself, without the assistance of a lawyer or even her own therapist.
The truth is, acknowledging that there are serious problems with the way that rape victims are being treated, and acknowledging that there are problems with the way that colleges have been using Title IX, are not mutually exclusive. It doesn’t do anyone any good to act as if they are, and it certainly doesn’t do any good to say that you’d be totally fine with someone being raped simply because she recognizes the latter problems.