Phi Beta Cons

Guilty Until Never Really Proven Innocent

K. C. Johnson writes of the violations of due process in sexual-harassment cases at Yale, particularly one involving quarterback Patrick Witt. The sexual-harassment procedures at Yale are already skewed toward aiding the accuser, but Yale is going even further. According to Johnson, Yale Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler “affirmed that the informal complaint procedure’s ‘goal is to achieve a resolution that is desired by the [accuser],’ so that accusers can ‘regain their sense of wellbeing,’ even though the process provides no mechanism for determining whether the accuser is telling the truth.”

Johnson concludes that President Levin and Deputy Provost Spangler

appear to have embraced a thesis common among both the professoriate and “victims’ rights” groups: that the way to persuade more real victims of sexual assault to report the crime is to jerry-rig procedures to make it more likely that those who do file reports will prevail, whether in court or before campus “judicial” tribunals. This mindset, however well-intentioned, contradicts any reasonable definition of due process and presumption of innocence. That President Levin seems prepared to further abandon these bedrock American principles…is a sad commentary on the state of higher education.

But it seems that when it comes to sexual-harassment and -assault charges in society at large, not just on campus, the normal rules are turned around. As we saw with Dominique Strauss-Kahn and more recently with broadcast journalist Greg Kelly — the son of New York City Police Commssioner Ray Kelly who was accused of sexual assault months after the fact — the operative rule seems to be “guilty until proven innocent, and never really proven innocent enough.” In addition, privacy protection is supplied to the accuser, who is allowed to remain anonymous, but not to the accused, who is exposed by the D.A.’s office and dragged through the press. And even when the charges are dropped or found to be baseless, there seems to be no way for the accused to have his reputation restored.

This is the logical outcome of the feminist scenario in which the sexes are perceived as adversaries, with men as predators and women as victims, and a craven society has destroyed key features of the rule of law in order to satisfy feminist demands. In a conversation about the Kelly case on television among female lawyers, the conclusion was that the damage to the accused’s reputation is just the price that has to be paid in order to give proper weight to complaints of sexual harassment and assault. I don’t think Johnson is correct in the quotation above in allowing that Yale’s procedures may be “well-intentioned.” There has been all too much deference given to feminism, even on the part of conservatives.


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