Stanford So Smart Even Its Rapists Are Logical

July 21, 2011

A Stanford University student accused of sexual assault in an incident that the Palo Alto police and prosecutor investigated and declined to pursue nevertheless was convicted by a student court under relaxed evidence standards introduced by U.S. Department of Education. 

In the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post, Princeton alumna Samantha Harris reports that the student court – which I guess is what you would get if you replaced kangaroos with students in a kangaroo court – changed its standard mid-trial, in response to a letter from Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR): 

At the time the student was charged, Stanford was using the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard — the highest standard of proof, used by courts in criminal cases. But after OCR’s letter, Stanford shifted to the "preponderance" standard in the middle of his case. 

Plus, the campus panel that heard the case had been "trained" using documents boldly proclaiming that "everyone should be very, very cautious in accepting a man’s claim that he has been wrongly accused of abuse or violence" and that one indication of an abuser is that he will "act persuasive and logical." 

Perhaps the Stanford student acted too logically: He was promptly found guilty and suspended for two years. But because the OCR’s letter forces colleges to permit the accuser to appeal the decision if the accused may do so, she has appealed and is seeking permanent expulsion of her alleged attacker. 

Harris’ organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has more on Stanford due process:

Stanford’s definition of consent to sex imposes a concept that is foreign to most people’s idea of adult consent and inconsistent with California state law. Stanford policy states that sexual assault occurs "when a person is incapable of giving consent. A person is legally incapable of giving consent … if intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol." In other words, any sexual activity while intoxicated to any degree constitutes sexual assault. This is true even if the activity was explicitly agreed to by a person capable of making rational, reasoned decisions, and even if the partners are in an ongoing relationship or marriage. Further, under a policy like Stanford’s, if both parties are intoxicated during sex, they are both technically guilty of sexually assaulting each other.

We’ve all had nights like that, eh? Amiright? 

Here’s the table of instructions [pdf] designed to help jurors find the plaintiff credible and the defendant guilty:

Stanford Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness advice on distinguishing a victim/survivor from an abuser.

These guidelines give a sense of having been written about specific episodes/people in the author’s past. (“Mention receiving abuse in prior relationships & claim not to understand why these relationships ended” could describe most people I know, but writing it out in this breathless way suggests the framer of the guidelines is still working through something.)  

I’m willing to go pretty far along the Valerie Solanas/Ti-Grace Atkinson continuum that recognizes men as the natural enemies of women. But the striking thing about these talking points is that they’re symmetrical. They prescribe behavior for both the accuser and the accused. 

The victim (most likely to be an adult woman, though I hear the kids are getting up to all kinds of funny business these days) is forced into a role that can only be described as “nice, passive, subdued, dependent, scared, mindless, insecure, approval-seeking Daddy’s Girl.” On the other hand, the attacker (most likely to be an adult male, but they tell me you wouldn’t believe some of these girls today) is given strengths of logic and persuasiveness that you would associate with a highly functioning person. Are logic and persuasiveness just gender constructions or something? I’ve known some logical and persuasive women – and by that I mean more than just, “I’d hit that.”

Schools: Stanford University Cases: Stanford University: Biased Sexual Misconduct Procedures and Unjust Guilty Finding