Quotes of the day

“I have serious questions about what happened, and I am at this point not ready to say what happened that night,” [Rolling Stone’s] managing editor, Will Dana, said in an interview Friday. “There should never be a story in Rolling Stone where I feel that way.”…

But in the interview Friday, Mr. Dana said the article stemmed from a feeling he and other senior editors had over summer that the issue of unpunished campus rapes would make a compelling and important story

The accuser appeared to be distressed, perhaps as a result of her trauma, according to a person familiar with the newsroom’s process, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to describe sensitive events. She had repeatedly asked Ms. Erdely that those she accused of raping her not be contacted. When the magazine brought up the issue again later, she threatened to withdraw from the story. 

That concern, combined with a feeling that it should err on the side of sensitivity, persuaded the magazine to accept her wishes. “Sabrina had talked to quite a few other women who had said, ‘If you talk to me, you can’t go talk to my attacker,’ ” Mr. Dana said, and so it seemed like a reasonable request. 


Whatever Rolling Stone finds, “A Rape on Campus” clearly aligns with Dana’s vision for high-impact magazine journalism. In a 2006 appearance at Middlebury College, Dana gave a speech titled, “The Myth of Fair and Balanced: A Defense of Biased Reporting.” According to a writeup in the Middlebury Campus, Dana put forth a common and compelling critique of contemporary standards under which journalists “worship the grail of objectivity” and “play twister to hide their bias,” said Dana, a 1985 graduate of Middlebury.

“I want to do stuff that’s biased.” He merely meant journalism driven by a worldview, as with Eric Schlosser’s 1998 Rolling Stone expose, “Fast-Food Nation” — a series that upended thinking on the world’s McDonald’s and the like. “We can become the seed pod for great things,” said Dana of such work.

Though the editor said his publication would endeavor to give both sides of a story, he said, “we’ll write what we believe,” according to the Middlebury Campus.


The central confession of the Rolling Stone “note to readers” reflects heinous wrongdoing. At the request of Jackie, the magazine refrained from contacting the accused in this incident. “Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story,” reads the note, “we decided to honor her request not to contact the man who she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men who she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her.” The idea that the magazine was honoring a victim’s request conflicts with what a Rolling Stone editor told The Post’s Paul Farhi: “We did not talk to them. We could not reach them,” said Sean Woods of Rolling Stone.

So did the magazine lie about its reporting efforts? Have some sympathy here: What would you do if forced to choose between admitting that you agreed with a source not to contact other sources and admitting that your publication lacked the sophistication to track down modern day college students with presumably large digital footprints?…

On the topic of the reachability of these friends, Rolling Stone commits perhaps the most self-damaging parenthetical in the history of journalistic self-assessment. It comes from the magazine’s “note to readers”: “A friend of Jackie’s (who we were told would not speak to Rolling Stone) told the Washington Post that he found Jackie that night a mile from the school’s fraternities.” Bold text added to highlight an un-get-pastable problem: Rolling Stone is in possession of a gang-rape allegation that includes a broken glass table, seven assailants and penetration with a bottle. Not only does it not have an official complaint, it has agreed not to contact the accused AND it has apparently accepted the affirmation of some interested party that a pivotal source isn’t really up for an interview.

Where is that an acceptable excuse?


National fraternity and sorority leaders are calling on the University of Virginia to reinstate its Greek system, which the university suspended after an article in Rolling Stone that is now in dispute chronicled an alleged gang rape at a campus fraternity.

Greek leaders say they would like the university to apologize, publicly release records that explain the basis of its decision to suspend the Greek system and outline how it will restore the reputation of fraternities and students at the university…

“We believe universities must demonstrate more respect for the fundamental rights to due process and freedom of association for students and student organizations when allegations of misconduct are lodged,” the statement said. “A rush to judgment on campus all too often turns out to be wrong, especially when applied at the organizational level.”

Fraternities and sororities, whose image was marred by the Rolling Stone account, are planning a sweeping offensive for the coming weeks


The University of Virginia is not a private college, but rather a public university bound by the First Amendment, due-process and equal-protection guarantees, and other constitutional norms.  For example, the First Amendment rights of college students are essentially coextensive with those of citizens in society at large…

Constitutional First Amendment and equal-protection principles forbid the government from arbitrarily discriminating against a class of people in the exercise of their First Amendment or associational rights… Entities like fraternities can invoke constitutional equal-protection guarantees, not just individuals…

Here, the University’s action was totally arbitrary in its scope and application.  U.Va. sororities are generally quite law-abiding (for example, they don’t even serve alcohol), and no one says sorority members committed sexual assault.  Yet U.Va. shut down their social activities along with all Greek organizations until January.  That seems like a flagrant violation of constitutional norms.


In the wake of the collapse of the Rolling Stone “gang rape” story last week, it’s time to consider what happened last month to Robert Jennings, the outgoing president of suburban Philadelphia’s Lincoln University, the nation’s first degree-granting historically black university. I note that Jennings is “outgoing” because he was just fired by his board over a four-minute YouTube excerpt of a 26-minute speech he gave to his school’s All Women’s Convocation in September…

[Jennings said,] “We had, on this campus last semester, three cases of young women who after having done whatever they did with the young men, and then it didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to turn out — guess what they did? They went to [the university’s Department of] Public Safety and said, “He raped me.” So then we have to do an investigation. We have to start pulling back the layers and asking all kinds of questions, and when we start trying to collect the data and ask the questions — and why do we do that? Because we know that possibly somebody’s life is getting ready to change for the rest of their life.”…

Then came the statement that clearly sank Jennings’s presidency (he may still have tenure as a professor): “I’m saying this because, first and foremost, don’t put yourself in a situation that would cause you to be trying to explain something that really needs no explanation, had you not put yourself in that situation.”…

At first, the university defended Jennings, agreeing with him that three women at Lincoln had recently lied about rape, although he had gotten the time period slightly wrong. Jennings characterized the cases as women falsely reporting rape as revenge against men who had been unfaithful. But faculty members and some alumni, already upset at Jennings for what they called his autocratic style and his elimination of college programs, demanded his head. It was promptly delivered to them.


Unfortunately, under the worthy mandate of protecting victims of sexual assault, procedures are being put in place at colleges that presume the guilt of the accused. Colleges, encouraged by federal officials, are instituting solutions to sexual violence against women that abrogate the civil rights of men.

Schools that hold hearings to adjudicate claims of sexual misconduct allow the accuser and the accused to be accompanied by legal counsel. But as Judith Shulevitz noted in the New Republic in October, many schools ban lawyers from speaking to their clients (only notes can be passed). During these proceedings, the two parties are not supposed to question or cross examine each other, a prohibition recommended by the federal government in order to protect the accuser. And by federal requirement, students can be found guilty under the lowest standard of proof: preponderance of the evidence, meaning just a 51 percent certainty is all that’s needed for a finding that can permanently alter the life of the accused…

Hard-line policies like Harvard’s are necessary, government officials say, because undergraduate women are in unique peril. Often-cited studies of sexual violence at colleges describe an epidemic. But each of these studies has serious methodological limitations. In some cases, the studies make sensational assertions that are not supported by the underlying data. In others, the experiences of one or two campuses have been made to stand in for the entirety of America’s higher education system…

Any woman who is raped, on campus or off, deserves a fair and thorough investigation of her claim, and those found guilty should be punished. But the new rules—rules often put in place hastily and in response to the idea of a rape epidemic on campus—have left some young men saying they are the ones who have been victimized. They are starting to push back. In the past three years, men found responsible for sexual assault on campus have filed more than three dozen cases against schools. They argue that their due process rights have been violated and say they have been victims of gender discrimination under Title IX. Their complaints are starting to cost universities. The higher education insurance group United Educators did a study of the 262 insurance claims it paid to students between 2006 and 2010 because of campus sexual assault, at a cost to the group of $36 million. The vast majority of the payouts, 72 percent, went to the accused—young men who protested their treatment by universities.

Assertions of injustice by young men are infuriating to some. Caroline Heldman, an associate professor of politics at Occidental College and co-founder of End Rape on Campus, said of the men who are turning to the courts, “These lawsuits are an incredible display of entitlement, the same entitlement that drove them to rape.”


9) In the past 24 hours, I’ve read a number of times that we must not let the “inconsistencies” in Jackie’s story blind us to the larger truths about the University of Virginia and “rape culture.”

This argument should not be received uncritically.

One reason is that Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s story does not establish any larger truths about the University of Virginia…

I do know that, from start to finish, Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s article has methodological flaws and a deep bias. “A Rape on Campus” is an irresponsible patchwork of personal politics, sloppy reporting and preconceived conclusions by a writer who lamented that the University of Virgina has no “radical feminist culture seeking to upend the patriarchy”—and took it upon herself to do just that.


“Rape culture” is a moral panic on steroids. It is based on very twisted evidence. The oft-repeated claim that one in five female students on American campuses is sexually assaulted — which was parroted by most of the students I spoke to at Columbia — is highly questionable. As one debunking recently pointed out, the definition of campus sexual assault used in the federal-government survey that came up with that stat includes sex that occurs when you’re too drunk or drugged up to really know what you’re doing. Isn’t a lot of student sex like that? It was in my day. Seventy-five per cent of the female students who were labeled by the survey as victims of sexual assault as a result of drunkenness did not claim that they had been raped. But what do they know, right? Maybe they’ve “caught” rape culture, too, and are making excuses for their assaulters.

The idea of “rape culture” combines all the worst moral panics of the past 25 years. It has an ugly steak of fear-mongering about male sexual bravado. It has a healthy smattering of media-effects theory in its promotion of the idea that raunch culture makes all men into misogynists. It depicts women as vulnerable, fragile, in need of saving. And it rides roughshod over both due process and freedom of speech, as can be seen in the rise and rise of on-campus kangaroo courts using lower-standard evidence to mete out punishment to suspected assaulters and in the demands from some feminists for more controls on access to porn and other mind-warping sexual material, to stop men from becoming rapists.

The Christian moralists, anti-porn crusaders, and Victim Feminists of the 1970s and ’80s must be beaming with pride at the rise of the idea of “rape culture,” for it embodies their every prejudice and ill-founded panic and their lust for authoritarianism as a solution to the alleged sexual swagger of dumb, media-fueled men.

There really is only one thing to say to the bleating students, the illiberal liberals, of Columbia and other privileged campuses: You have lovely, lazy, intellectual lives that many of the world’s still-repressed women would sell their souls for, so, please, shelve the slave songs and self-pity and grow the hell up.


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Jazz Shaw 5:31 PM on February 04, 2023