The Corner

Law & the Courts

The Curious Case of the Missing Campus Statistic

Yesterday, The Atlantic’s Emily Yoffe finished her indispensable three-part series on campus sexual assault by examining (as much as she could) the “question of race” in campus adjudications. I say “as much as she could” because it turns out that there actually isn’t much good data on the racial impact of campus policies. Here’s Yoffe:

How race plays into the issue of campus sexual assault is almost completely unacknowledged by the government. While the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which regulates how colleges respond to sexual assault, collects a lot of data on race, it does not require colleges and universities to document the race of the accused and accuser in sexual-assault complaints. An OCR investigator told me last year that people at the agency were aware of race as an issue in Title IX cases, but was concerned that it’s “not more of a concern. No one’s tracking it.”

I find this extraordinarily curious. Our nation’s campuses are absolutely, positively race-obsessed. Racial statistics are tracked in admissions, faculty hires, and individual faculty departments. Moreover, racial disparities and disproportionate impacts are generally viewed as prima facie evidence of discrimination and/or systematic disadvantage.

Indeed, when it comes to sex and race, there should exist extra incentive to know the numbers. After all, accusations of sexual misconduct against black men by white women has long been tied to the worst miscarriages of justice against African-Americans. Again, here’s Yoffe.

Janet Halley, a professor at Harvard Law School and a self-described feminist, is one of the few people who have publicly addressed the role of race in campus sexual assault. Interracial assault allegations, she notes, are a category that bears particular scrutiny. In a 2015 Harvard Law Review article, “Trading the Megaphone for the Gavel in Title IX Enforcement,” she writes, “American racial history is laced with vendetta-like scandals in which black men are accused of sexually assaulting white women,” followed eventually by the revelation “that the accused men were not wrongdoers at all.” She writes that “morning-after remorse can make sex that seemed like a good idea at the time look really alarming in retrospect; and the general social disadvantage that black men continue to carry in our culture can make it easier for everyone in the adjudicative process to put the blame on them.”

The anecdotal evidence Yoffe was able to gather does indicate that black men are disproportionately accused of sexual assault on campus, but her information is far from complete. I do wonder, however, if the “racial question” is one that campus activists don’t really want to answer. After all, the identity politics of campus sexual assault are for now exactly right — it’s mainly women versus men. But what if the real identity issues are far more complicated? What if white women are disproportionately likely to accuse black men of misconduct? What if black or Hispanic men are disproportionately persecuted in campus kangaroo courts? Then the social justice consensus will disappear, quickly, and the campus Left may well wage war with itself.

For now, however, ignorance is apparently a form of radical bliss. But it’s time for knowledge. It’s time for campus ideologues to confront the true consequences of their crimes against the Constitution. They may not like what they find. 

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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