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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Duke Lacrosse False Rape Case / Misandry in Education

For our first video/blog post on misandry as it occurs in the spoken and written word in education, we’ll focus on one of the most anti-male universities on the face of the West: Duke University. In the hopes of starting this series on common ground, we’ll talk about Duke’s 2006 false rape case, a story which many people know a little about, a few know a lot about, and none know as much as Brooklyn University professor K.C. Johnson, who co-authored the book Until Proven Innocent, a highly-recommended chronicle on the infamous false rape case, and blogs at Durham-In-Wonderland. Although racism against the falsely accused students is also a critical element of the story, I’m going to focus on the prejudice and the presumption of guilt on the basis of gender which, as we have seen and will continue to see, affects all men and all boys in education, regardless of color.

Seligmann at an ATM during the "rape."
In 2006 at Duke university, three male students who were members of the university lacrosse team were falsely accused of raping a stripper at a party. At the outset, the accused denied the charges. There were multiple problems with the accusation. The accuser changed her story and the names of the men she accused many times. The DNA found on Crystal Mangum, the accuser, did not match the men she accused. The stripper who came to the lacrosse house on the night of the party declared to reports that she never saw a rape occur, and that Mangum had told her to put marks on her to make it appear she had been assaulted. By the time the case was over, there were so many problems with the accuser’s story, and so much evidence in contradiction to it, that instead of acquitting the three young men, the district attorney, in an extremely rare move by our justice system, declared them innocent.

Wanted: bearers of Y-Chromosomes
But before they were officially declared innocent, and even while much of the evidence pointed to their innocence, these three students were subjected to a brutal hostility that had come to characterize far too much of academic culture. Some students paraded a banner reading “castrate,” others distributed what amounted to wanted posters throughout the campus with pictures of the lacrosse team. Protestors showed up outside the lacrosse house banging pots and pans, and elsewhere walked around carrying signs saying "don't be a fan of rapists." At one point, a lacrosse player was surrounded by protestors and ordered to confess. Instead of protecting the students’ due process rights, the Duke president Richard Brodhead pandered to every political interest, looked the other way in the face of a bloodthirsty crowd that presumed their guilt, suspended the team and fired the coach.

The Listening Statement
Many faculty and administrators in education in general go out of their way to appear gender-sensitive, and to speak out against prejudice. But in this case, and in many others as we will see, when that hatred is directed at men and boys, no one employed at the university seems to notice, much less care. On the contrary, as Duke protestors were shouting “confess” “confess,” banging pots and pans and carrying banners reading “castrate,” 88 Duke published in the campus newspaper that came to be known as the “Listening Statement” laced with a presumption of guilt against the three accused, and turning a blind eye to the presumption of guilt espoused by many of the protestors. An excerpt from the statement reads:

Regardless of the results of the police investigation, what is apparent everyday now is the anger and fear of many students who know themselves to be objects of racism and sexism; who see illuminated in this moment’s extraordinary spotlight what they live with everyday. The students know that the disaster didn’t begin on March 13 and won’t end with what the police say or the court decides. Like all disasters, this one has a history…to the students speaking individually and to the protestors making collective noise, thank you for not waiting and for making yourselves heard.

Lynchings: a historic male privilege
Indeed, this is a story of prejudice and hatred based upon one’s possession of a particular genetic code. And it does have a history, but not the one Duke professors are referring to. Our society has a dark history of overreacting to accusations of rape, too often to the point of assaulting men and boys who are wrongly accused. From the hanging trees of the south during the days of racial repression, to the overprotectiveness of fathers that sometimes results in the assault and murder of their daughters' boyfriends. Contrary to the lies of certain gender ideologues, we have always lived in a culture that is hypersensitive toward certain forms of male sexual impropriety, even to the point of reacting with gender-based violence

This is what they call "taking a stand
against gender-based violence." Notice
anything strange?

Protecting female students from retaliation when they make allegations of sexual assault is a key concern of education administrators, and is reinforced by a directive by the Department of Education. But no such concern is voiced in education for men and boys who are wrongly accused, to the point that students can openly advocate gender-based violence and male students in not an individual, but a community effort. The very act of castration is a form of violence directed against males. What these students are essentially doing is using hate speech to advocating a hate crime, and they are doing so out of the presumption that those accused are guilty because they are male. Although academia has an evolved understanding about recognizing and preventing retaliation against female students, the Duke case demonstrates that it is it is still in the Stone Age in doing the same for men and boys who are falsely accused of rape.

In Until Proven Innocent, Professor K.C. Johnson recounts the words of coach Mike Pressler: “the faculty was a hell of a lot worse than the students. It was appalling. These are our educators” (104). Dr. Johnson documents cases in the chapter “Academic McCarthyism” where faculty used their bully pulpits to sway their classrooms against the three accused students. Here’s a few passages:

In late March, [professor] Reeve Huston opened a class by saying that he needed to break his silence on the lacrosse episode and talk about what he had concluded from his research on the topic: there was a long-prevalent problem of alpha males assaulting black females in America and there had been a sexual assault at 610 North Buchanan.
As the professor spoke, Ryan McFayden text-messaged Rob Schroeder, asking if they should walk out. Huston plowed ahead, declaring it obvious that ‘an ejaculation had occurred.’ Senior  Casey Carroll had had enough. He got up and left the room. McFayden, Schroeder, Jennison, and Breck Archer followed their teammate. As they left, Huston said, ‘Don’t worry, this won’t affect your grade.’ The female lacrosse player remained. She later reported that Huston had devoted the entire session to his ‘analysis’ of the case.
Down the hall from Huston’s class, several other players were taking professor Sally Deutsch’s course in U.S. history…Deutsch departed from the syllabus and announced that she would discuss how white men, especially in the South, have disrespected and sexually assaulted black females. ‘We all knew what she was doing,’ lacrosse player Tony McDevitt later recalled. ‘A couple people asked questions to try to get her off track, but she persisted. It lasted half an hour.

Even after it became clear that the three young men were likely wrongly accused, some faculty just wouldn’t let it go. After Duke president lifted the suspensions of falsely accused students Reade Seligman and Collin Finnerty, professor Karla Holloway resigned her position on the Campus Cultures Initiative in protest. Throughout the spectacle, in order to appease various political interests, the Duke administration made public statements that leaned toward a presumption of guilt against the three young men accused. As an example, Joe Alleva, Duke's athletic director, said, "Unfortunately, they're young men, and sometimes young men make bad decisions, make some bad judgments. And that's what this whole thing incident is about." While many of them stated that they will not stand for sexual assault, not a single one of them publicly stated they would not stand for false accusations of rape.

Seligmann on CBS
The behavior of the faculty and administration led Reade Seligmann, one of the falsely accused who was filmed on a security camera at an ATM at the time of the alleged incident, to say on CBS, “I chose Duke to be my home for four years. And to see your professors go out and slander you and say these horrible, untrue things about you, and to have your administration just cut us lose for, for, based on nothing. Duke took that stance that ‘we wouldn’t stand for this behavior [i.e. sexual misconduct].’ They didn’t want to take a chance on standing up for the truth. I can’t imagine representing a school that didn’t want to represent me."

Years after the event, not a single professor has apologized, and some of the have moved on to administrative positions. On January 17, 2007, 87 Duke faculty signed what came to be called the Clarifying Letter in which they claimed that they really didn’t mean to prejudge the three accused, that they had been misinterpreted, and that they really weren’t specifically referring the case at all. If that is true, one must wonder what exactly they were referring to in the Listening Statement when they said, “this disaster?” In the Clarifying Letter, they assert that the “disaster” is “the atmosphere that allows sexism, racism, and sexual violence to be so prevalent on campus.” But if they were commenting on that supposed atmosphere and not the case itself, why did the author of the Listening Statement, Wahneema Lubiano, in her original email to faculty inviting them to sign the ad, say, “African &African-American Studies is placing an ad in The Chronicle about the lacrosse team incident”? Why were the students whose quotations they claimed to listen to referring to the case specifically, and implying the guilt of the three accused

If the faculty were truly concerned with not pre-judging the students accused and adding to the hysteria and public hatred directed against them on the basis of their birth group, why did they wait until 8 months after the fact, at which point the case was 2/3 of the way over, when most of the evidence that had come out strongly in in favor of the defendants? Why didn’t they clarify their statement when people were still banging pots and pans, carrying castrate banners and distributing wanted posters, when such a clarification would have done the most good? And if they truly stand against prejudice on the basis of race, sex, or class, why don’t they care about the fact that the greatest amount of prejudice was directed against the three young men? If the faculty care so much about listening to their students, why aren’t they listening to all of them?

The answer, of course, is that the Clarifying Letter is not about a re-affirmation of the values of equality and diversity that, like many such faculty, the faculty at Duke claim to possess but don’t; it’s about covering their behinds, because as of January 2007, now that the evidence is strongly suggesting the three young men were falsely accused, and that people speaking for 5 academic departments and 10 academic programs had publicly had earlier urged the community to presume their guilt, the university could be in serious legal trouble.

In his book Tenured Radicals – How Politics has Corrupted our Higher Education, Roger Kimball describes the culture at Duke University, “For months nearly the entire faculty fell into one of two camps: those who demanded the verdict first and the trial later, and those whose silence enabled their vigilante colleagues to set the tone” (xxxi). Which of the two groups is innocent? When it comes to political disagreements, many faculty espouse the advice Polonius gave to his son Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who says “give every man thy ear but few thy voice.” Which is generally a good professional policy, when disagreements are small. But when prejudice develops from an attitude among a scattered few to a connected subculture, when that subculture becomes entrenched, and when it metastasizes to the point that it manifests itself in institutionalized hatred and bigotry, there comes a point when remaining silent is no longer a virtue, or as a great man said, “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” The truth is that every member of the faculty and administration is a moral stakeholder in their respective universities. When it comes to institutionalized prejudice, and when it comes to civil rights, among those who have a stake in such a structure, there is no such thing as an uninvolved bystander.

Wendy Murphy, Empress of Evil
The events drew responses from academia outside Duke as well. As Roger Kimball reports in Tenured Radicals, “Syracuse University…decided not to accept as transfers any students from the Duke lacrosse team – not just the three accused chaps, mind you, but anyone contaminated by having played lacrosse for Duke” (xxvii). Law professor Wendy Murphy, an attorney and sex-assault victim advocate, was a frequent media spokesperson on the Duke case. At one point commented, “I’m really tired of people suggesting that you’re somehow un-American if you don’t respect the presumption of innocence, because you know what that sounds like to a victim? Presumption you’re a liar.” And in case anyone missed it, this is a person who teaches law, prosecutes people for sex crimes, and is regarded as an authority in the sex-assault victim advocacy community.

Wendy Murphy reveals a problem among many Feminists and sex-assault victim advocates: the pervasive belief that women who claim to be raped are always telling the truth. When the false accuser Crystal Gail Mangum was examined, “the doctors and nurses were unanimous in finding no physical evidence of the attack described by Crystal – that is, a brutal assault by three, five, or twenty varsity athletes, lasting half an hour. No bruises. No bleeding. No vaginal or anal tearing. No grimacing, sweating, changes in vital signs, or other symptoms ordinarily associated with the serious pain of which she complained” (Johnson 32).

But none of that mattered to the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, or SANE nurse, the last one to see Crystal. “Tara Levicy, the ‘SANE nurse,’ was to play a little-known but critical role in bringing about the prosecution of the lacrosse players. A strong feminist who had played a part in a Vagina Monologues production [which is a play hosted on many college campuses, which we’ll get to later] and who saw herself as an advocate for rape victims, Levicy was later to acknowledge that she had never doubted the truthfulness of a single rape accuser” (Johnson 33).

Tara Levicy, In-SANE Nurse
“Over the subsequent ten months, Levicy would repeatedly tell police that she thought Mangum had been raped, adjusting her theories to bat aside new evidence that the charge was false” (Johnson 34). Defense attorney Joe Cheshire later said, “Tara Levicy’s stridency and inability to even examine an opposite point of view had a lot to do with the genesis of this case. There are people like her in hospitals all over this country” (Johnson 378).

At the end of the ordeal, David Evans, one of the falsely accused, said, "This woman [i.e. Crystal Mangum] has destroyed everything I worked for in my life." Reade Seligmann left Duke and went on to graduate from Brown University in 2010, but as we will see, in terms of misandry, the culture at Brown is not much better.

You would think that after this event Duke would be content to lay low and let the dust settle for a while. You would think that if they did anything, at least it wouldn’t be rash, especially in the area of sexual misconduct. No. In 2009 Duke adopted a new sexual misconduct policy that radically broadens the definition of nonconsensual sex, in effect stripping many male students of due process rights. The policy states, “real or perceived power differentials may create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion.”

The vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said, "Members of the men'sbasketball team could be punished for consensual sexual activity simply because they are 'perceived' as more powerful than other students after winning the national championship.” The director of Duke university’s women’s center justified the policy by saying of rapists, "The higher [the] IQ, the more manipulative they are, the more cunning they are…imagine the sex offenders we have here at Duke—cream of the crop."

Given Duke’s history, it’s a wonder why young men continue to attend. I spend so much time talking about Duke because it is so emblematic of the culture of higher education. And when we view that culture for what it is, we perceive the source of a great many problems facing male students as a group. For example, why is that that, despite the incredible gaps in educational achievement between male and female students that have persisted for over 30 years, diversity administrators sit on their hands and do nothing, while continuing to pour funding and energy into programs for female students? Why is it that college-age students can parade around a banner reading “castrate” and faculty can say the most slanderous things about male students based on nothing more than their genetic code, and no administrator says or does anything, but little boys who are 9 and 6-years-old are suspended for sexual harassment for saying that a teacher is cute, or for singing “I’m sexy and I know it?” What is going on?

 Freshman orientation at Hamilton College
Our education system is overrun by a group of misguided ideologues who define their existence by words like equality and diversity, but have forgotten what those words actually mean. They live under the false consciousness that being progressive is not about eliminating prejudice and bigotry on the basis of sex, but about “redistributing” that prejudice and bigotry so that it changes sides, changes faces, and changes victims. 

But what about the more moderate among those in the academia? Surely not all of them are like that. In what I believe to be most revealing lesson the Duke case can teach us about the culture of higher education, that answer comes from the behavior of one of the most moderate members of the Group of 88. It is an element of the case that is almost never spoken of, and K.C. Johnson tells the story HERE.

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