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Planning To Send Your Son To College?

Emma Sulkowicz carries a mattress in protest of the university's lack of action after she reported being raped during her sophomore year. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Raising boys who can master their aggressive and sexually predatory nature is a Herculean task. There are years of teaching your son lessons that start with "don't hit your sister!" and end with "it's always wrong to use someone -- sexually, emotionally, financially." You raise that young man to show honor and respect for all, but especially toward anyone who might be weaker. Proud, albeit exhausted and relieved, you send him off to college... and wake up to a nightmare: your son has been falsely accused of sexual assault, and expelled without being given a chance to defend himself, his honor or the family name.

Not as rare as you might think. Here are just a few examples.

The Mattress Girl. Emma Sulkowicz vs. Paul Nungesser. Sulkowicz claimed she was pinned, beaten and choked before being raped. Sulkowicz began a mattress-carrying "performance art" project where she publicly identified Nungesser as her attacker, despite confidentiality rules. During his Columbia University hearing, Nungesser tried to get introduced numerous messages from Sulkowicz asking to hang out with him, even telling him she loved him, as evidence but was denied.

Vassar College v. Peter Yu. His accuser sent Facebook messages apologizing for leading him on during the evening and stating that she had "a wonderful time" with him. But when Yu produced these messages for the disciplinary panel, his accuser claimed they "did not correctly reflect her feelings," as she was in a state of "shock and disbelief" about the encounter. The Vassar disciplinary committee bought her claim and expelled Yu.

Columbia University v. John Doe. A New York judge has dismissed a lawsuit claiming a former Columbia student was discriminated against on the basis of gender at a campus hearing that found him guilty of sexual assault. Despite a lack of any evidence beyond the female student's accusation (she never sought medical attention or a rape kit), and that none of witnesses who could corroborate his account were ever contacted, the male student was found responsible and suspended for one year.

University of Colorado v. John Doe. Male student John Doe was accused of sexual assault by female student, Jane Doe. Jane Doe later told university investigators that she "may have stretched the truth" about the encounter because she was "pissed off" at John for being "just another douche frat dude." She told police she wanted revenge against John. During the campus disciplinary hearing, the investigators decided that since Jane admitted her prior statements were lies, that was evidence that she really had been assaulted. John Doe was found responsible and suspended for three terms.

The proximate cause of all of these examples may lie with the training provided by Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA) -- which produces most of the training materials used by colleges (for a hefty price). Investigators are taught to “anticipate” and “counter” defense strategies, rather than simply investigate the facts of the case. This includes instructions not to write detailed reports from multiple interviews, so that the defending student can’t point to inconsistencies in the accusers claims.

ATIXA specifically instructed schools not to post their training materials, citing copyright laws. Which meant accused students were unable to obtain the Title IX materials that would show these supposedly "neutral" investigators were actually trained to believe accusers and not the accused. That they were, in fact, taught to believe that women rarely, if ever, lie about sexual assault.

Fortunately, in March 2020, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos published new guidelines for . All Title IX personnel training now

  • Must not rely on sex stereotypes,

  • Must promote impartial investigations and adjudications of formal complaints of sexual harassment,

  • Must be maintained by the school for at least 7 years,

  • Must be publicly available on the school’s website; if the school does not maintain a website the school must make the training materials available upon request for inspection by members of the public.

The new rules for training are at least a step toward correcting the lack of due process. Schools will now be prohibited from using any copyrighted training materials they can’t post on their website.

But if your son is falsely accused, he will still have a long road ahead of him. Sadly, it appears that the only thing these institutions have learned is that if they don’t punish the accused, even when evidence suggests he is innocent, bad publicity will surely follow.


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