How a Michigan student "beat" a campus sexual assault kangaroo court

Yes, I’m afraid it’s another one of those college campus rape stories, but this one seems to have a slightly less bad ending if not a good one. While it’s been covered in the past, for a quick review we’re talking about a case at the University of Michigan where Drew Sterrett wound up sharing his room for the night with a female coed which turned into a sexual encounter. The following autumn he discovered that he’d been summoned to a meeting with campus officials to be grilled about the evening in question. The young woman had accused him of sexual assault and without a trial or ever having access to an attorney he was drummed out of school. The police were never officially involved nor were any charges filed.

Later investigations showed that charges of “rape” in this case seemed to be contradicted by virtually all of the evidence that could be turned up. (Slate’s Emily Yoffe has the very long, full timeline of events and evidence here so we don’t need to recount the entire thing.) Long story short, Drew fought back and has now received what some are describing as vindication. (Washington Post)

He said he was now filled with “a sense of excitement and joy.”

In a settlement agreement, the University of Michigan “will vacate” its conclusions about Sterrett’s alleged sexual misconduct, “rendering those findings null and void.” The university also agreed that it will not include references to the disciplinary action in Sterrett’s transcript, and that it will not investigate the case further. Sterrett, in turn, agreed not to reapply to the university.

“The whole goal was to let Drew go on with his life,” Deborah Gordon, Sterrett’s attorney, told Slate.

The so called “victim” in the case is still raising a fit, but it seems as though the tide has turned. Yoffe describes Sterrett as part of “a very small cohort” of accused male students who have had the findings of one of these kangaroo courts reversed. But is this really an reason to celebrate?

In the end, Sterrett may have had his suspension vacated, but he’s still out of school and has to explain to the next school why he left. Perhaps his record has been expunged in the transcripts but his name will show up with better than a million results in a Google search which all feature the word “rapist.” You may be able to tear up a piece of paper but you can’t erase the past.

But even more to the point, Sterrett’s accuser is still out there claiming she was wronged and neither of them have had a day in court. The police have never been able to do a complete investigation and a prosecutor has never had a crack at the evidence. Let’s just say for a moment that she’s telling the truth (contrary to all reported evidence) and got the short end of the stick. This wasn’t just some incident of inappropriate language or touching. Both of the parties agree without question that intercourse took place. She’s claiming it was without consent. That means it was rape, not sexual harassment of any sort. Is she going to allow a rapist to run free? Should the police? How was this never presented to a judge in the first place?

And if, as even the college concluded, she lied about the entire thing and it was a consensual encounter which she later came to regret, then she is guilty of falsely accusing someone of a horrible crime and derailing their life. Should she not stand against the wheel for that as well? Calling this some sort of “justice” for Drew is a joke. This should have been handled by the cops from day one to provide a clear answer and it still needs to go to them now.

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