Duke University: Overbroad and Unjust Sexual Misconduct Policy

Category: Due Process
Schools: Duke University

  • Duke’s sexist sexual misconduct policy

    April 14, 2010

    Four years ago, Duke University became the center of a national controversy about sexual assault, wrongful accusations, and campus politics when four lacrosse players were falsely accused of raping an exotic dancer at a party. Now, Duke is back in the news with a campus policy that ostensibly seeks to prevent sexual assault – but, in fact, infantilizes women, redefines much consensual sex as potentially criminal, and does a grave disservice to both sexes. The policy, introduced last fall but recently challenged by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, co-founded by Boston attorney Harvey Silverglate, targets “sexual misconduct” – […]

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  • Ex-Student Sues Brown Over Rape Accusation

    April 14, 2010

    The New York Times A former student has sued Brown University in federal court, saying university officials interfered with his efforts to clear his name after another student, the daughter of a prominent Brown alumnus and donor, accused him of rape. In documents unsealed Monday, the former student, William McCormick III, said the university had failed to follow its own disciplinary policies and sent him home to Wisconsin after the woman’s father made calls to top university officials. The rape accusation was never reported to the police by Brown or the woman, according to the lawsuit. Within a month, Mr. […]

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  • The Problem with Stanford’s Definition of ‘Intoxication’

    July 21, 2011

    I want to take a few moments today to discuss a particular aspect of FIRE’s recent work regarding due process protections for those accused of sexual misconduct. Specifically, I want to focus on the issues of consent and intoxication. Because many cases of sexual misconduct involve intoxicated students and questions of consent, precisely how a school defines intoxication is of obvious importance when thinking about due process rights and ensuring fair procedures. Let’s take Stanford University as an example. As FIRE detailed in yesterday’s press release, Stanford defines sexual assault as occurring “when a person is incapable of giving consent.” This […]

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  • FIRE’s Case at Duke Gets National Attention in ‘Boston Globe,’ ‘Washington Times,’ ‘The Atlantic’

    April 15, 2010

    FIRE’s exposé of Duke University’s unjust sexual misconduct policy—a policy that transmogrifies students into unwitting rapists—is drawing the attention of some of America’s best-known publications. In The Boston Globe, Cathy Young brings analysis and an original perspective to Duke’s policy, while FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley has a column of his own in today’s Washington Times. Meanwhile, The Atlantic‘s Wendy Kaminer, a member of FIRE’s Board of Advisors, tackles the policy’s defective procedures and the political assumptions underlying the policy. Duke, meanwhile, has remained silent, making it increasingly obvious that it cannot defend this outrageously unfair policy.

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  • In Pages of ‘Washington Times,’ FIRE’s Robert Shibley Takes Apart Duke’s Outrageous Sexual Misconduct Policy

    April 15, 2010

    Much ink has been rightly spilled in recent days over Duke University’s new sexual misconduct policy. Indeed, as FIRE and others have documented, the policy blurs the idea of consent in any sexual encounter, deprives students accused of sexual misconduct of basic due process, and threatens to turn many students on Duke’s campus into unknowing rapists. In other words, the policy would be laughably absurd in its affront to common sense, if not for the fact that it is so dangerous and the possible consequences so dire. Adding to the calls for Duke to dismantle its ill-advised policy is FIRE […]

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  • SHIBLEY: Unwitting rapists and their oblivious victims

    April 15, 2010

    At Duke, you can be a rapist without even knowing it. A new sexual-misconduct policy, enacted in the fall, takes as one of its fundamental tenets that “real or perceived power differentials between individuals may create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion.” That’s right: To be guilty of date rape at Duke, you don’t have to force someone to have sex or even have actual power over that person – you only have to be “perceived” as more powerful by a Duke tribunal. Not concerned yet? How about this: If either party, male or female, is to any degree intoxicated during […]

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  • Cathy Young in ‘The Boston Globe’ on Duke’s Unjust Sexual Misconduct Policy

    April 14, 2010

    Columnist and Reason contributing editor Cathy Young pens an excellent editorial in The Boston Globe today about Duke University’s shockingly unjust and intrusive sexual misconduct policy. The entire column is well worth a read, as Young details the many infirmities of Duke’s policy. Young also brings a fresh perspective to the table: About 15 years ago, as an undergraduate, a friend of mine was talked into a one-night stand in a situation some would call coercive: the man was a graduate student, and she felt somewhat intimidated by his intellectual brilliance. She went to a campus counselor hoping for advice on developing […]

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  • Wendy Kaminer Pillories Duke’s Sexual Misconduct Policy in ‘The Atlantic’

    April 13, 2010

    Celibacy is probably not a feasible option for most undergraduates, but students at Duke University may want to consider it anyway. Such is the assessment of author, lawyer, and FIRE Board of Advisors member Wendy Kaminer in her most recent blog entry for The Atlantic. Kaminer is ridiculing Duke University’s troubling sexual misconduct policy, and she’s issued one of the best critiques of the policy to appear in the days since FIRE went public with its concerns at Duke. As FIRE has done at length, Kaminer also draws attention to the many inequities in Duke’s policy which stack the deck […]

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  • Duke University and the Accidental Sex Offender

    April 12, 2010

    Celibacy is probably not a feasible option for most undergraduates, but students at Duke University may want to consider it anyway.  Duke’s new rules governing sexual misconduct and coercion are so vague, subjective, presumptive of guilt, and oblivious to the dynamics of consensual sexual relations that they pose a risk of prosecution even for students engaging in innocent foreplay.  Sexual misconduct at Duke includes “inappropriate (or non-consensual) touching,” as well as rape; “inappropriate touching” and “acts of a sexual nature” that require clear consent include (“but are not limited to”) touching and “attempted touching” of an “unwilling person’s” erogenous zones, […]

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  • Duke and the Art of Not Answering Questions

    April 9, 2010

    Lawyers often specialize in the art of answering questions without actually answering questions. Here’s a great example: the letter we received today from Duke University lawyer Kate Hendricks. Hendricks was personally very pleasant to me when I had a non-substantive conversation with her on March 25, as I mentioned in my previous blog entry and to which she refers in her letter. But Hendricks’ letter employs a common tactic: it addresses the least important concern we raised in our letter while conveniently ignoring everything else. Here’s the sole concern Duke addresses: FIRE pointed out in our letter that the sexual […]

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  • Robert Shibley Appearing on ‘The David Boze Show’ Tonight

    April 7, 2010

    FIRE’s Vice President Robert Shibley will be discussing our latest case at Duke University on The David Boze Show tonight, a daily talk radio program on 770 KTTH AM. If you are in the Seattle area, tune in at 4:10 p.m. East Coasters can listen online at 7:10 p.m.

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  • New Duke Policy Renders Students Unwitting Rapists

    April 7, 2010

    I didn’t want to write that headline. Not because it isn’t true—it is—but because FIRE works very hard not to overstate our cases.  But the closer you look at this case, the more you realize that there’s no way around that headline. At Duke University, you can be a rapist and not even know it. To write anything less harsh would be, as journalists say, to “bury the lede.” Today’s FIRE press release discusses Duke’s sexual misconduct policy, which was instituted at the beginning of the current school year. KC Johnson, rightly lauded for his blog Durham in Wonderland and […]

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  • New Duke Policy Renders Students Unwitting Rapists; Removes Protections for Those Accused of Sexual Misconduct

    April 7, 2010

    DURHAM, N.C., April 7, 2010—Duke University has instituted a new “sexual misconduct” policy that can render a student guilty of non-consensual sex simply because he or she is considered “powerful” on campus. The policy claims that “perceived power differentials may create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion.” Duke’s new policy transforms students of both sexes into unwitting rapists simply because of the “atmosphere” or because one or more students are “intoxicated,” no matter the degree. The policy also establishes unfair rules for judging sexual misconduct accusations. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is challenging the policy. “Duke’s new sexual […]

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