Saturday, August 30, 2014

Kangaroo Campus Courts

By Professor Doom

     Another day, another sex crime on campus, or so it seems. There have been quite a few rape scandals on campus where the alleged perpetrator was (reasonably) innocent, and yet was expelled and penalized horribly, based on a single alleged incident; the later invalidation of the allegations do little to offset the damage done to the reputation of the “perpetrator”. On the other hand, there have other cases where a sexual predator was on campus for years, acting, apparently, with the support of administration, or at least acting with an administration willing to keep looking the other way until the Sun burns out.

     Once again, I find myself puzzled that there isn’t more wondering why that is the case. I know, the American legal/justice system is no great shakes, but I can still, in ignorance, accept at least the possibility that there’s some room for justice there. 

     On the other hand, I know quite well the kangaroo court system that academia uses, and it explains much.

     The Game of Thrones case I discussed earlier is a good example of what is going on. In that case, the professor supposedly made an “implied threat” via a child wearing a Game of Thrones t-shirt. A committee of administrators formed, found the threat reasonable (not kidding), and gave considerable smackdown to the poor professor.

     “But that wasn’t a real crime!” one might say…but that’s how administration handles it all, from goofy minor allegations to extremely violent rape. Due to weird quirks in the law, campuses have considerable leeway on how to handle campus crime. Yes, they could turn things over to the police…or they could try to handle things themselves.

      When a crime is committed, administrators create their best imitation of what they think is a fair system is. It’s roughly comparable to watching 8 year olds discuss the finer points of Nietzsche.

Admin: “Discussing the case and events surrounding it is grounds for termination…”
--Freedom of speech on campus? Sure, just don’t talk about things admin doesn’t want talked about…

     When there’s a crime reported on campus, and that crime is not yet public, then admin first puts the lockdown on information. Next, a committee is formed…of administrators, or at least of people that will do administrative bidding no matter how foul. Often, the membership of this committee is secret, and always, discussion of the committee’s deliberations is secret.

     If the alleged perpetrator is an administrative darling (i.e., another administrator), then the committee will simply rule in favor of the administrator, and it doesn’t matter how many witnesses and victims come forward—Penn State is the prime example of how this works, but it’s not by only means the only long running sex scandal on campuses.

 Me: “Why exactly is [another faculty] gone?”
Admin: “He was engaging in non-collegial behavior.”
Me: “What did he do, exactly?”
Admin: “We can’t say, but the committee ruled unanimously.”
Me: “Who was on the committee?”
Admin: “We can’t say, but the evidence was compelling.”
Me: “Weird. He seemed polite and respectful to me. What was the evidence?”
Admin: “We can’t say. Please, can we stop talking about this?”
Me: “I’m not sure we even started to talk about it.”
--I didn’t say that last line, but the number of secret committees making decisions on secret evidence is strange, considering admin’s insistence that they use due process. Since the poor guy didn’t know the evidence against him, he had no means of defense. It’s weird how faculty just disappear sometimes. I too disappeared after asking too many questions, so I sure know how it happens.

     Now, on the other hand, if it’s a student, and admin thinks it politically expedient to hang that student…then the student shall hang.

--it doesn’t have to be sexually related, but you better believe Admin will side with a governor over a student.

     These hangings are particularly obnoxious when it’s a sex crime, especially when a male is accused of raping a female. Yes, the Duke Lacrosse case comes to mind, but much like Penn State, it’s only the one that everyone’s heard of. There are many others.    

      The bottom line is young males, if accused of sexual conduct, face a kangaroo campus court system.  I’ve been on both ends of these quasi-judicial proceedings, and I assure you they are obnoxious and vile and an insult to all academia. The Duke Lacrosse “boys” aren’t the only ones who’ve had their lives permanently damaged by these things. Administration’s utter lack of integrity simply makes it impossible to run a remotely fair system.

--On the face of it, administration’s conflict of interest here is a bit strong to let them be judge, jury, and executioner, right? If you really want to be disgusted, just click that link. Not one admin thought that maybe there was a conflict of interest here? Wow. Once again, can’t make this stuff up.

     There’s some claim that the kangaroo court system is part of a war against males on campus. As eyewitness testimony, I have to admit I’ve never seen a female treated improperly by these kangaroo courts…but I’ll just call that an anecdote for now, since I’ve only been really familiar with a dozen or so such proceedings (keep in mind, most of these things are buried in secrecy, so I have no clue just how much of it goes on).

     It does bother me that secret evidence is used, and that the accused often is given no chance to defend against the allegations…I wish it were more rare than what my eyes tell me. I’m not expert in legal matters, but my heart tells me that secret evidence, secret testimony, and secret committees in these proceedings just have to be wrong.

      Luckily, the son of an attorney was victimized by this process, so allow me to present some quotes from someone who knows the legal system, as to just how bizarre administration’s view of a fair process is:

”…Who knew that American college students are required to surrender the Bill of Rights at the campus gates?...”

“…the separately listed allegations were a barrage of vague statements, rendering any defense virtually impossible. The letter lacked even the most basic information about the acts alleged to have happened years before. Nor were the allegations supported by any evidence other than the word of the ex-girlfriend.”

“The hearing itself was a two-hour ordeal of unabated grilling by the school's committee, during which, my son later reported, he was expressly denied his request to be represented by counsel or even to have an attorney outside the door of the room. “
“The many pages of written documentation that my son had put together—which were directly on point about his relationship with his accuser during the time period of his alleged wrongful conduct—were dismissed as somehow not relevant. What was relevant, however, according to the committee, was the unsworn testimony of "witnesses" deemed to have observable knowledge about the long-ago relationship between my son and his accuser.”
“While my son was instructed by the committee not to "discuss this matter" with any potential witnesses, these witnesses against him were not identified to him, nor was he allowed to confront or question either them or his accuser.”

    Having seen administration destroy evidence supplied by the defendant (and then cite lack of documentation as a reason not to believe the defendant’s side), the above description of how poorly the process can work (sic) rings true to me. 

    Is it part of a war on males? I don’t know. I do know that females now make up a clear majority of students on campus, and there sure doesn’t seem to be an outcry about how “unfair” that is.
     I can’t help but wonder if, years from now, when it’s well known that “higher education” is a horrible mistake for most people, there’ll be crying about how unfair it was that females were cheated more than males by this incredibly corrupt system.
     Back to the point, why should an incredibly corrupt system be allowed to set up its own quasi-judicial system for crime?


  1. Ken Westhues discusses this on his website:

    I have personal experience with this sort of thing. Sadly, it's all perfectly legal. Here in Canada, the target of the allegations has to clearly demonstrate that such acts are libelous.

    In many ways, educators at staff level give up many of their human rights when they begin teaching. This tactic of harassment and defamation only confirms that the post-secondary educational system is hopelessly corrupt.

    1. Yep, that seems about right, and a bit more thorough than what I had to say, focusing a bit more on how to rid of uppity faculty that think integrity need to be in the system. Thanks!

    2. You're welcome.

      During the time that I was teaching, I saw or heard of numerous incidents in which certain people in our department were either sacked or resigned under mysterious circumstances. (In one case I knew of, the evidence used against the man was laughable at best.) Nearly every time, the replacement just happened to be the buddy of a certain administrator. Coincidence?

    3. By the way, the case I referred to was settled when the employee in question filed a grievance through his union. The matter was quietly made to go away after he received a certain payment for his troubles.

      Then there was a certain instructor in another department in our building who went off the rails while on the job and was bought out of her contract. (In her case, though, her "misbehaviour" might have been more a result of a personality clash with a new department head, particularly since she thought that she should have had the job after the previous head retired.)

      However, after a while, our institution appointed a financial vice-president who insisted that there would be no more buyouts (one of the more "charitable" aspects of his nickel-and-diming). After that, it was like open season across the campus. Anyone who displeased a departmental administrator could easily find their lives made very unpleasant. And why not? The institution would suffer no monetary consequences.