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December 20, 2002 [feather]
Rabinowitz blasts Brooklyn College

Today's Wall Street Journal prints Dorothy Rabinowitz's commentary on the botched tenure case at CUNY's Brooklyn College. The case centers on K.C. Johnson, a prodigious scholar and popular teacher who fell afoul of the history department's resident ideologues just in time for them to sabotage his bid for tenure. Rabinowitz's piece lays out in devastating detail the nature of that sabotage: how Johnson walked on departmental water until the fall of 2001, when he angered his colleagues by suggesting that a proposed post-9/11 "teach-in" ought to include a diversity of perspectives (as conceived, all the participants in the teach-in were hostile to U.S. military response, and none were supporters of U.S. or Israeli policy); how he ran even further afoul of the prevailing departmental orthodoxy later that year, when he suggested that the department's search for a woman Europeanist ought rather to be a search for the best available Europeanist; how this second infraction led the department chair to begin building a spurious case against Johnson's bid for tenure; how the category of "collegiality" was leveraged against Johnson, whose principled disagreement with certain departmental and college actions was disingenuously cast as the unprincipled and uncollegial behavior of an arrogant and troubled young man.

Rabinowitz's short but damning piece makes it clear how far unscrupulous academics can and will go when they want to oust a colleague they find threatening (Johnson's productivity and popularity put that of many of his senior colleagues to shame) or repellant (in some academic circles, Johnson's principled objections to biased hiring and teaching practices are ideologically heretical) or both. Brooklyn College's history department is an exemplary instance of the sort of petty, internecine corruption that runs rife in academe, where accountability is minimal and the power to destroy careers is correspondingly high. In this, it is an argument against academic self-governance and an argument for a very large lawsuit from Johnson.

Erin O'Connor, 4:30 PM | Permalink

December 19, 2002 [feather]
Reading the riot act at Boalt

Today's Daily Journal (subscribers only) reports that Berkeley's Chancellor Berdahl gave the Boalt Hall law faculty a "talking-to about sexual harassment and gender parity" in a private meeting held on December 6. The meeting was closed, but those members of the faculty who were willing to speak to the Daily Journal's reporter about it agreed that Berdahl's subject was gender imbalance at Boalt, and that his talk centered around the premise that those in power tend to perpetuate social injustice by hiring those who are like themselves. The message was not lost on the Boalt faculty, eleven of whose fifty-three members are women. According to one Boalt professor, "It was the subtle academic equivalent of reading the riot act. ... He was nicely telling us we're a bunch of chowderheads. The male faculty was quite taken aback. They did see it as pointed at them."

Berdahl's appearance at Boalt is part of a larger effort to contain and control the fallout from Jennifer Reisch's allegation that former dean John Dwyer sexually harassed her. Berdahl also intends to be personally involved in the search for a new dean (usually the Chancellor just rubberstamps a decision made by the law school) and has hired employment law expert Stephen Hirschfeld, who has co-authored the books Stopping Sexual Harassment In The Workplace: An Employer's Guide and Conducting An Effective Internal Investigation, to review Boalt's policies on sexual harassment.

Subjecting an elite law faculty to an impromptu seminar on gender discrimination may seem to be a strangely excessive and off-topic response to a single set of highly problematic and belated allegations. But when one considers Berdahl's own career history, it makes more sense. Berdahl has served on the American Council on Education's Commission on Women in Higher Education. He has also been a staunch defender of race preferences and "diversity." Since coming to Berkeley in 1997, he has promoted attempts to work around Proposition 209 by expanding admissions criteria. Berdahl was President of UT Austin before he came to Berkeley. There, he was the defendant in the now famous Hopwood v. Texas case in which rejected white law school applicants successfully challenged the law school's affirmative action policies. Berdahl, in other words, has been burned by discrimination lawsuits before. He's an expert on the academic glass ceiling. And he is not about to let another badly behaved law school drag his university's name through the mud--particularly when this time he appears to agree with the contention that the school is a hotbed of discrimination.

In leaping from allegation to policy review and revision, Berdahl is doing all the things Jennifer Reish wants him to do. The Daily Journal reports that Reisch and her lawyer, Laura Stevens, "applaud" his actions. Stevens, who has a tendency to reveal just a little bit too much to an inquisitive media, freely acknowledges that Reisch "hopes to force changes at the school." When a lawyer feels comfortable coming right out and saying that her client's harassment accusation is part of a larger political campaign, we know she thinks she's got the system in her pocket. Certainly she seems to have Berdahl where she wants him.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

Interesting at Boalt how fast it has all moved past the guilt or innocence of a single faculty member (who was never actually charged with anything) to the collective guilt of the entire male faculty, none of whom have (presumably) done anything. Nevertheless, in true Stalinist fashion, this is going to be used as a pretext for punitive measures against them as a group, including the now-usual re-reducation and a de facto hiring and promotion freeze of male faculty. What's even worse is the supine way this is all being accepted as inevitable.

Yup. You read it here first.

Erin O'Connor, 10:25 PM | Permalink

Fisking the feminist law professor

Xlrq has delivered a fine fisking of law professor Linda Hamilton Krieger's absurd editorial about sexual harassment at Berkeley's Boalt Hall. Particularly worth noting: his comments on Krieger's use of the word "perceived" in this sentence: "The chancellor must get to the bottom of this, and must make clear that it is in -- not against -- the universityís interest for people to surface perceived incidents of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual assault, and that retaliation, either blatant or subtle, will not be tolerated." Do we need any more proof that for people like Krieger, harassment is whatever the accuser wants it to be? And, having established that, do we still need to debate whether accusations of sexual harassment are handy tools of personal and professional self advancement for the women who know how to use them? And, having established that, can we agree that Krieger and Jennifer Reisch (the "victim" of whom Krieger writes) have thoroughly discredited themselves--personally and professionally--through their attempt to use a trumped-up charge of harassment for their own gain?

Erin O'Connor, 3:50 PM | Permalink

Baby harassers

Sexual harassment has made its way onto the playground of an Albuquerque grade school. Last Thursday a five-year-old boy allegedly kissed and fondled a five-year-old girl during recess. He also told her she was sexy. The school district says the incident fits their definition of sexual harassment and is now conducting an investigation. Meanwhile, the boy has met with a counselor and the girl has been pulled out of school by her mother.

Two things:

1) The incident shows the infinitely expansive character of the category "sexual harassment." From the early days of comparatively narrow and precise definitions of quid pro quo harassment, to the massive expansion of the term to include comments, looks, and jokes via the category of "hostile environment," and onward to the even greater expansion of the category via the concept of "peer harassment," this is a term whose utility is predicated on its applicability to just about any and every situation where gender is nominally involved.

2) The incident exposes the politicized tin ear of the Albuquerque school district for what it is. To call a kindergartner who kisses and fondles a fellow kindergartner a harasser is to allow ideology to trump reality in a way that is damaging to all involved. The little boy becomes just another example of how all men (now expanded to all male children) are potential sexual predators. He becomes confirmation of the hateful vision of men propagated by the sexual harassment industry, and he becomes a walking justification for "sensitivity training" in schools. You can never get 'em too early! The little girl, on the other hand, becomes a "victim." She enhances and expands the victimology that runs through the rhetoric of sexual harassment by becoming its most perfect poster girl: Who could be more innocent or blameless than a girl who does not even know what sex is? Women who play up their victim status (as in the case of former Boalt law student Jennifer Reisch) are infantilizing all women. But you can't infantilize an infant: little girls are the sexual harassment industry's most perfect embodiment of helpless virtue, and as such are its best argument for expanding its purview.

What do we have here, really? Most likely we have imitation and play (albeit disturbing imitation and misguided play). Little boy watches TV, sees men kissing and fondling women while plying them with erotic compliments. Little boy may even see Daddy doing the same with Mommy, or big brother doing the same with his girlfriend. (More disturbingly, little boy may have been the object of such advances himself.) And little boy does as he sees. Most likely, he does not know his behavior was "wrong," he has no predatorial intent, he merely does what he thinks it behooves him as a boy to do. This does not prove that he is "naturally" a harasser, as some would certainly want to argue here, but that he is "naturally" a curious kid who learns the way all primates do: by experimentally copying the behavior of others to see what it is all about. That doesn't make his behavior okay--the little girl's mother has good reason to worry if her daughter is getting felt up by her schoolmates, and has genuine cause to be upset by the school's lack of supervision. But if changing our perception of what went on between the boy and the girl doesn't excuse the incident, it does suggest that there are more constructive ways to approach it than to label the boy a harasser and the girl a victim.

But it's so much more fun, and so much more useful, to exploit the incident as one of harassment. Apparently, experimental fondling is something of a tradition at this particular school. The spot where the boy kissed and fondled the girl is known among the schoolchildren as "the secret hiding place where kisses happen." If this little boy is a harasser, than perhaps other boys in his class are, too. And if this little girl is a victim, there are probably plenty of other silent, suffering victims in her class as well. Probably this is not an isolated incident. Probably sexual harassment has reached epidemic proportions at Zia Elementary--and this is probably in turn just the tip of the iceberg (after all, we all know how much schools oppress girls). Probably this is just the sort of finding that would make the school district's Title IX enforcers drool with anticipatory bureaucratic lust. An epidemic of this nature would require such policy review! Such policy expansion! Such educational programming! All of this, in turn, would require so much funding, so many studies, and the creation of so many more jobs.

Playing lover is just a variation on the old, old game of playing doctor. It's a predictable one, given what kids see all around them. And, from the perspective of the sexual harassment industry, it could be a very profitable one.

UPDATE: Tightly Wound has more.

Erin O'Connor, 12:54 PM | Permalink

December 18, 2002 [feather]
Another Boalt alumna defends Dwyer

Another Boalt alumna defends John Dwyer and expresses her disgust at how the Boalt case has been handled by Jennifer Reisch, UC Berkeley administrators and faculty, and the media. She confirms the problematic role of alcohol in Boalt's academic culture, and offers some bracing thoughts on the relationship between accusations and accountability:

While I prefer to remain anonymous for professional reasons, as a Boalt alumna, I felt compelled to make this contribution to the discussion concerning John Dwyer. Dean Dwyer,as a professor and as the dean, provided me immeasurable support, direction, respect and kindness during my years at Boalt.

Undoubtedly, Dwyer is accountable for the nature and quality of his interactions with students. However, as I'm sure you're aware, in graduate-level education, the line between faculty and students blurs, and never appears as clear as it might have when 18 year-old freshmen are sent off to university by their trusting
parents. The evolution of that relationship is particularly evident in law school, which is more of a professional training camp than a purely academic setting.

In many ways, Boalt Hall encourages students and faculty to interact as colleagues, including clinical practice and journal participation, where students are increasingly treated as peers, in terms of scholarship and professionalism. This is further evidenced by the degree to which law students strive to achieve
professional recognition. Reisch seems to have wasted no time in doing so, judging by what is a resume overflowing with participation in political and legal activities since her undergrad days.

Also, student-faculty interactions easily synthesize both professional and social "responsibilities," as law students are assimilated into a calling that undeniably relies on socializing to a high degree, creating an almost "secret handshake" kind of club.
In my first semester at Boalt Hall, a civil procedure professor made clear that part of his responsibility was to convey the importance of and the degree to which "cocktail party" behavior could be an influence on the course of your legal career. And as mentioned on your site previously, Boalt's social events, attracting students and faculty alike, often involve alcohol.

Former Dean Dwyer now suffers the ultimate negative consequence of what he admits was inappropriate "cocktail party" behavior - excommunication from not just his livelihood, but from a community that was his life. However, the question remains, how did Reisch get a free pass here at Dwyer's expense, considering the strong likelihood her own drinking impaired her
ability to recall the events of that night accurately? Did she not also have a responsibility to avoid the situation in which she found herself, as a professional in training and simply as an adult? If the answer is no, it becomes difficult to view the ultimate resolution of this conflict as anything other than the man being held responsible by default, regardless of how the two of them ended up in her apartment, on her bed, once they both had too much to drink.

While Reisch mistakenly thinks her success in removing Dean Dwyer from his position stands as a victory empowering women (not withstanding her delayed timing that, under her version of events, left all female Boalt students at risk), instead, she has reinforced the image of women as helpless and forever at the mercy of men, too weak to take any responsibility in their careers for their own "cocktail party" behavior.

The University granted Reisch unfettered power to anonymously destroy the academic career of a caring, committed, not just hard-working, but driven and dedicated servant of the Boalt Hall community and the legal profession. What a tragedy for Boalt to lose him. Reisch has taken no responsibility, while Dwyer, forced to assume all responsibilty, pays a price far out of proportion, exacted not only for his own lack of judgment, but for hers as well, which she apparently will never be called upon to acknowledge.

I think there are probably many more outraged Boalt alums where this one came from. I hope Berkeley takes their thoughts into account before making the extraordinarily skewed and self-serving vision of rampant discrimination put forth by Reisch, her lawyer, and her professor-mentor Linda Hamilton Krieger the basis for sweeping policy change at Cal.

Erin O'Connor, 11:16 PM | Permalink

Boalt women speak up

Today's San Francisco Chronicle prints a letter to the editor written by five women who graduated from Boalt in 1996. They categorically dispute the portrait of Boalt that Linda Hamilton Krieger is painting with the help of former Boalt student Jennifer Reisch's harassment allegation:

Editor -- We are members of the Boalt Hall Class of 1996. In response to Boalt professor Linda Hamilton Krieger's op-ed (Open Forum, Dec. 13), we dispute her claim that the environment at Boalt Hall is "gender-stratified." In fact, we are not sure what she means. When we attended the law school, Boalt had a female dean, Herma Hill Kay, and we were proud and excited that our class was the first at Boalt Hall in which the women outnumbered the men. Our years at Boalt were a positive, empowering experience and we did not feel harassed, discriminated against, intimidated or in any way impeded because of our gender.

We also question Krieger's suggestion that the university needs to protect graduate students from having relationships with their professors. The women who attend Boalt are not helpless potential victims.

Boalt's student body is comprised of some of the most capable and assertive women -- and men -- of their peer group; they are well-equipped to make their own decisions about their personal lives.


When John Dwyer was about to be appointed dean of Boalt in 2000, a letter opposing the appointment was sent to the Chancellor. It was signed by thirteen different student groups, including the Law Students of African Descent, Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, the La Raza Students Association, the Berkeley Women's Law Journal and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Caucus. It was later discovered, however, that not all of the members of those groups had been consulted about the letter, and that, in signing the groups' names to the letter, the students who wrote it were effectively fraudulently signing the names of students who had not been consulted about the letter's contents and who did not necessarily agree with what the letter said. This was reported in the March 31, 2000 edition of The Recorder, which quoted a Boalt student member of the Coalition for a Diverse Faculty/Student Body, one of the student organizations that endorsed the letter, thus: ""They obviously appended my signature to a letter that I didn't agree with. ... As far as I know, we don't have any elected officers, and we haven't had a meeting in a year."

And so the pattern continues: in leveraging Reisch's accusations to decry the sexist atmosphere of Boalt, Linda Hamilton Krieger has not only generalized from a single disputed incident to an entire culture, but in so doing she has also falsely set herself out as the Voice of Boalt women. There is a fine irony to this: her arguments about gender discrimination at Boalt are, as the authors of the letter above indicate, sexist in the extreme. They cast women as helpless victims who cannot manage their own lives without the paternalistic (and prurient) intrusions of university administrators. And as such, they could be construed by some as a kind of harassment in their own right.

Two additional details:

These are not the only Boalt women to object to Berkeley's handling of the Dwyer case. Kate Gordon, a 2002 grad who knows Dwyer well, has published a letter of protest in several California papers.

One of the signers of the letter above is the wife of blogger Stefan Sharkansky, who also has some interesting things to say about Krieger's op-ed, about the media's complicity with Reisch and Krieger, and about today's letter.

UPDATE: There are many ways to read the cognitive dissonance that surrounds the Boalt case as it has been spun in the press. Here is one reader's take on the wounded dove rhetoric that Linda Krieger and Reisch's lawyer, Laura Stevens, have made the centerpiece of their case against Dwyer:

The C.V. of the alleged accuser provides, on paper at least, a picture of a strong, intelligent, assertive young woman. Admission to both Yale undergraduate and Boalt Law school is no easy task and I can imagine that the young lady is both bright and ambitious. While at Yale the accuser didn't just join associations supporting abortion rights and women's' issues but attained a leadership role in those groups. You have to be pretty strong-willed to rise to leadership positions in student activist groups. My experience of activist groups (no matter what political persuasion) is that while they are easy to join they are difficult to lead. One needs to be strong-willed, assertive, have a healthy ego, and be prepared to engage in fierce internecine (if petty) battles with those similarly situated. Not the sort of person likely (one would think) to wilt into a passive, helpless wallflower after one clumsy pass or brief sexual encounter by an older professor known to be a flirt. Based solely upon the information you provided about here background, I would have thought that she would have been more likely to respond in anger than suffer a delayed relapse into 1890 Nervous Nellie mode. This thought led me conclude that perhaps Professor's Krieger's description of the accuser's emotional state might be, how should I put it, somewhat exaggerated and intended to promote her own agenda rather than a fair and open investigation into the conduct at issue. Just a possibility I suppose but it would explain the desire to keep the woman away from the press - where an investigation into her personality might reveal not a history of sexual conduct but, rather, a history of establishing a strength of character that would belie the intimation that she wilted at the first sign of male sexual predator conduct. The worst thing that could happen would be for the accuser to come to the forefront and be exposed as a strong assertive person - because that could lead people to conclude she was not nearly as damaged as Professor Krieger contends. Portraying the 'victim' as a helpless emotional wreck - who must be left alone (and free from scrutiny) allows the Professor to keep her eye on the political prize/agenda - but not necessarily on the facts.

This is one of the more marvelous paradoxes of feminist victimology: it is increasingly a weapon used to enhance the power of already socially powerful women, and it is a weapon whose effectiveness increases with the skill and determination of those who wield it. The question is not, "How damaged is Jennifer Reisch?" but "Why is Jennifer Reisch levelling these accusations at this particular time?"

Erin O'Connor, 11:55 AM | Permalink

December 16, 2002 [feather]
Binging on Boalt

I've gotten an interesting note from a reader in response to my post on Boalt professor Linda Hamilton Krieger's San Francisco Chronicle op-ed. Last Friday, Krieger published a piece arguing that Berkeley needs to tighten up its harassment policies, do sexual background checks on administrators, and either ban or "strongly discourage" sexual relationships between faculty and students. Noting Krieger's demand that Berkeley investigate whether anyone knew of Dwyer's "propensity to engage in risky sexual acts," the reader suggests that students who bring charges should be "held to the same standard." Specifically, this reader notes an aspect of the Boalt scandal that has been given short shrift by commentators who see the allegations against Dwyer as proof that Boalt is riddled with sexism and constitutes a hostile environment to women: alcohol abuse. Any discussion of Dwyer's "propensity to engage in risky sexual acts"--what "risky" means, she notes, is never defined--should be balanced by a discussion of Jennifer Reisch's "alcohol abuse": "drinking till you pass out is RISKY--and stupid." (I identified Jennifer Reisch as Dwyer's accuser last Friday.)

This is an issue I've been thinking about for awhile now. Media coverage of the story has definitively established that Dwyer's alleged assault took place while Reisch was passed out on her bed after a night out drinking with fellow Boalt students and faculty. The media has also established that this evening of heavy drinking was in celebration of a successful Boalt-based philanthropic endeavor, that it began at a Berkeley restaurant, and continued, after the restaurant closed at 11, at an Oakland bar. We know Dwyer had had so much to drink that a sober male student offered to drive him home. We know he declined, and that he then drove the drunken Reisch home. We also know from Boalt students quoted in the papers that parties of this sort are part of Boalt culture; Dwyer and other Boalt faculty regularly invited Boalt students to parties in their homes. In her Chronicle piece, Linda Hamilton Krieger characterizes the drinking party as a "school-related event."

So why isn't the issue one of Boalt's alcoholic culture, rather than its allegedly sexist culture? While it seems a long, hard stretch indeed to move from Dwyer's drunken peccadillo to Berkeley's institutionalized sexism, it makes perfect sense to suggest that what's gone wrong at Boalt is substance abuse. Not factoring the role of alcohol--or of an alcoholic culture in which students who wish to network socially must drink to do so--into the equation is disingenuous in the extreme, and only serves to underscore the extent to which agitation such as Krieger's is motivated not by a desire to identify and resolve a problem, but to advance an agenda. Demanding that faculty-student relationships be banned does not even begin to address what happened between Dwyer and Reisch, which was not a relationship, and which, in their respective inebriated states, would hardly have been averted by policy. The grope was secondary to alcohol; alcohol, and not the oppression of women, is the real issue here.

Some damning statistics: "75% of college men and 55% of college women involved in acquaintance rape were drinking or using drugs just before the attack" (this was, ironically, published in 1990 as part of UC Berkeley's own official literature on the connection between alcohol and date rape on campus). Also part of that report: the U.C Berkeley Police Department's finding that over a two-year period every reported date rape on campus involved alcohol. Also part of that report: the information that the "use of alcohol and other drugs tends to blur sexual decision-making, prompting people who would not otherwise do so, to engage in sex without precautions against conception or sexually-transmitted diseases." I think it's safe to say that what happened between Reisch and Dwyer would not have happened if they had been sober.

If there is to be an investigation into the culture at Boalt, it might as well be into whether--and how much--alcohol abuse figures into it. Accusations of rampant gender discrimination are not only not appropriate in this instance, but positively misleading. In manipulating the issues, such accusations do less to expose institutional problems at Berkeley than to cover them up.

Erin O'Connor, 5:55 PM | Permalink

Re-education at Georgia State

At NoIndoctrination.org, a student posts an unfavorable review of Georgia State's Sociology 1160, "Introduction to Social Problems":

When [the professor] was explaining a subject, she would only present one point of view (hers) as the "correct" opinion. When she did bring up an alternative point of view, it was with a nod and a wink. Well, just for example's sake, on the first day of class, the professor (who was British) made fun of President Bush, lamented the Bourgeoisie, praised Marx, said that workers should own the means of production (but did not admit that the stock market is for that purpose), and said the only way the problems of the masses are ever solved are through "Revolution", which she wrote emphatically and in very large letters on the board.

This particular student was unusually cagey, and tested his hunch that the professor was more interested in rewarding certain viewpoints than in helping students develop their own takes on the material:

...we had to write "response papers" about four topics of discussion. I did an experiment. I wrote two papers rather poorly, but regurgitating what she had said in class. I got an A on those. The two that I wrote well but from my own point of view, I got a C on. She said that the papers showed I wasn't "learning." In fact, in the syllabus, she stated that we would need to show we were "learning" in order to get good marks. My experiments proved that in order to "learn" you had to say, "well, before this class I thought ---. Now that I have learned better, I think ---." Very 1984. Very scary.

Very 1984 indeed.

UPDATE: David Foster has a thoughtful post on NoIndoctrination.org at Photon Courier. Foster speculates convincingly that there is a strong correlation between the expansion of the professoriate since the 1960s and the increasing substitution of indoctrination for education:

It's much easier to denounce "oppression" than to really analyze the thought of Karl Marks and, say, Friedrich Hayek.

I've previously speculated that the vast expansion of higher education has swept into the ranks of academia a number of people who aren't really that interested in or qualified for the intellectual life (much as the great proliferation of public companies in the late '90s brought many people into CEO roles who arguably weren't up to the job.) If this speculation is true, then perhaps many of these people focus on indoctrination rather than education partly for the simple reason that Lewis suggests--it's easier.

It's not just that it's easier. It's also that a growing number of professors and teachers can't tell the difference between educating their students and indoctrinating them.

Erin O'Connor, 2:32 PM | Permalink

British scholars boycott Israel

Mona Baker has started a trend: it is now fashionable among British academics to boycott Israel.

Erin O'Connor, 12:38 PM | Permalink

Public interest / political games

Friday I published the identity of the former Boalt student who has accused former Boalt dean John Dwyer of sexual harassment. Stefan Sharkansky has been doing some interesting follow-up research on Public Advocates, Inc., the "public interest" law firm where Jennifer Reisch is now employed. Sharkansky notes that Public Advocates, Inc. would more accurately be called a "political advocacy law firm." Interesting stuff, especially in light of how Reisch's accusation is being leveraged by Linda Hamilton Krieger, a Boalt professor who has mentored Reisch and now seeks to use Reisch's allegations to further her own agenda at Berkeley.

Erin O'Connor, 12:27 PM | Permalink

December 13, 2002 [feather]
Boalt Part III: the money shot

I've been calling all week for the media to reveal the identity of John Dwyer's accuser. Meanwhile, I've been seeing if I couldn't work out her identity from the information reported in the paper. This morning I reported that I had a name, and was 90% sure I was right. Turns out I am. Many thanks to Stefan Sharkansky for independently confirming the accuser's identity.

In what follows, I'll recreate my research for the interested reader. There are no doubt more economical and elegant ways to Google one's way to gold, but this is, for better or worse, the route I took.

We know from the media that the accuser is 27, that she passed the California bar in July 2002, that she now works in a public interest law firm in San Francisco, and that she was active in the Berkeley Law Foundation while at Boalt. So, I went to the website of the Berkeley Law Foundation, where I found a list of the Board of Directors. I googled each name, and found that one member of the board, Jennifer Reisch, is a Boalt grad working at Public Advocates, Inc., a public interest law firm in SF. I looked up Jennifer Reisch in the database listing all who passed the July 2002 California bar, and found that she did indeed take and pass the bar at that time. I doublechecked to make sure that she graduated from Boalt in 2002, and found that she did: she even received an honor for her work in the International Human Rights Clinic. I wanted to be sure that she was 27, and discovered that a Jennifer Reisch graduated from Yale in 1996 (which would make her 27 now). If this is the same Jennifer Reisch, she was at the time an officer in both the Yale Students for Reproductive Rights and the Yale chapter of NOW (at the moment of this writing, the Yale Daily News server is down, so I am linking to cached pages on Google). As far as I can tell, the identity of John Dwyer's accuser is Jennifer Reisch.

A caveat: if I am in fact wrong, I apologize in advance for dragging Jennifer Reisch's name into this, and will retract my claim the moment she informs me that I have indeed mistaken her for someone else.

Outing Dwyer's accuser is serious business, so I want to take a moment to clarify my motives. My most immediate, practical point is that at this point anyone with an hour to spare, a little creativity, and access to a search engine can discover the name of Dwyer's accuser. By printing data about her, the media has made her identity publicly available in the very act of concealing it. We might as well connect the dots and move forward, out of the morally crystalline mythography of victimhood and into the realm of complex and contradictory fact.

My other, larger point--one I have been making for upwards of a week on this blog--is that it is not possible to cover this story adequately unless the identity of the accuser is part of it. John Dwyer's accuser has made it very clear via her lawyer Laura Stevens that the role of the media in this case is to ensure that John Dwyer never works in a university setting again. She has made it clear, via her lawyer, that the court of public opinion is to be used to ruin Dwyer. She has at the same time expected not to be scrutinized by the same court of opinion. She wants us to judge and condemn Dwyer, but she does not want us to know who she is. She wants us, in other words, to consent to the social death of a man even though we are not in full possession of the facts that supposedly condemn him. The media has complied with this wish, largely, I think, because of policies that require reporters to respect the wishes of "victims" who want to remain anonymous. But the public does not have to comply, and a smart, discerning public should refuse to be manipulated in such a way. If the court of public opinion is to be the judge in this case, let it make its judgements on the basis of all available information. It's my hope that by making public a name that should be a part of this unfolding story, the story itself will cease to be a scripted vehicle for feminist victimology and will begin to be reported in a more thorough, searching, and intellectually honest way.

Erin O'Connor, 11:16 PM | Permalink

Boalt Part II: From allegation to policy

Today's San Francisco Chronicle carries an op-ed by Boalt law professor Linda Hamilton Krieger, the discrimination expert to whom Dwyer's accuser tearfully revealed her tale. Krieger announces that it is time to move beyond the "sordid details of the encounter to whether the situation was in some way symptomatic of deeper structural problems with Boalt's approach to sex discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault" and she congratulates Berkeley for doing just that. The chancellor's office is now reviewing Berkeley's policies, procedures and training programs.

Krieger's argument is that "'the system' failed miserably" in this instance, and that it cannot be allowed to do so again. To that end, she outlines the sorts of questions the university community needs to be asking. First of all, she contends, the university must identify anyone who knew of Dwyer's "propensity to engage in risky sexual behavior" and determine why they did not speak up when he was appointed dean. Second, the university should consider amending the Faculty Code of Conduct to ban--or at least discourage--relationships between students and faculty in the same school or department. "We're beginning a new chapter in Boalt Hall's story," Krieger writes. "It's time to let go of the questions we can't answer, and under the leadership of our new interim dean and with the university's broader support, move on to answering the questions we can."

This is slick work indeed. What Krieger is saying here is that it doesn't matter what happened between Dwyer and his accuser two years ago. No matter what happened, she argues, it was wrong; moreover, no matter what happened, it was abusive. Krieger subscribes to the Catharine MacKinnon school of thought on this issue, and questions whether there can ever be truly consensual relations between a man and a woman when one is a faculty member and one is a student: "Given the tremendous power imbalances between students and faculty, and the psychological transference so often present in the student-teacher bond," she asks, "can sexual relationships between students and faculty ever be truly 'consensual,' particularly in a gender-stratified environment like that at Boalt Hall?" This is a rhetorical question as far as Krieger is concerned. It's clear enough that her answer is "no."

This assumption that there can be no such thing as consent between a student and faculty member does two things for Krieger. First it allows her to define whatever went on between Dwyer and his student as a form of sexual abuse. This in turn renders moot the question of whether the accusation is fair or true: in Krieger's logic, as long as something happened that night, something abusive did. Second, it allows her to define the university that does not recognize the inherently abusive nature of student-faculty relations as itself abusive and discriminatory. She follows her query about consent with one that reveals a great deal about her agenda here: "And why is the environment at Boalt still so gender-stratified anyway?" This is another rhetorical question. Though Boalt's student body is 60% women, though Boalt women have their very own private lounge (the men do not), and though there are good reasons why fewer women than men have been hired by Boalt in recent years, Boalt is nonetheless an inexcusably "gender-stratified" environment. As she notes elsewhere in her article, "Sexual harassment or exploitation is not just about sex; it's about attitudes toward women more generally." Clever, that: within this logic, one isolated, aberrant event reveals the hidden, perverted truth of the culture in which it occurred. It's not that Dwyer made a huge mistake one inebriated night two years ago, but that UC Berkeley's is a culture of harassment that enables and even encourages predatory behavior in men.

I've been suggesting since the Dwyer case broke that there is a political agenda behind it. Krieger's article both supports that claim and begins to clarify the nature of that agenda. Krieger's is a world where all men are potential abusers and all women potential victims, where harassment is consequently everywhere, all the time. Hers is a world where men must be policed and where women must be protected, where no one, in other words, can be trusted to take care of themselves or to respect others. As a consequence, she would have Berkeley attempt to legislate the private lives of its faculty and students; unable to imagine a community of responsible men and women who are free to follow their hearts and their consciences, she seriously believes that it is the university administration's business to protect grown adults from themselves by making rules about who can fall in love with whom. Never mind that such rules would not have made a whit of difference in the Dwyer case. What Dwyer is to Krieger is an opportunity: to push for policies that would render male-female relations on campus even more fraught than they already are, to institutionalize, via policy and training, the beliefs that sex is about power, that all men are dangerous, that all women are childish (Krieger plays this up, representing Dwyer's accuser as weeping in her office and as barely making it through her graduation), and that heterosexuality itself is, ultimately, a very problematic, very sexist thing in its own right.

It's always an interesting sport to try to decide who is using whom. The accuser contends that she was used by Dwyer. But the opportunism doesn't end there. The accuser has used the media to ruin Dwyer. And Krieger is using her former student's tale of woe to advance her ideological agenda. Strange bedfellows indeed.

Erin O'Connor, 2:21 PM | Permalink

All Boalt, all the time....

I'm 90% sure I know who accused ex-Boalt dean John Dwyer of sexual harassment (since elevated by the media to sexual assault). Last Sunday, I wrote about why I think it is important for the media to out the accuser, and pointed out how easy it ought to be, given the vital statistics the papers have already delivered to us--that she is a 2002 Boalt grad who passed the California bar last July, that she was active in the Berkeley Law Foundation while at Boalt, that she is now working at a public interest law firm in SF, that she is 27, that she wrote her thesis under the guidance of Boalt professor Linda Hamilton Krieger (who, significantly, is an expert in discrimination law). So much information was out there that I decided to do some detective work myself, just to see what I could come up with.

Well, Google is a beautiful thing, and it didn't take me long to come up with the name of a woman who fits this profile. I won't publish it here just yet, because you have to be 100% sure about these things before you act. There could be other women who fit the profile that I didn't find; the woman I did find fits the profile above perfectly, as far as I was able to check it. I don't have a list of women who wrote their theses under Krieger--if I did, I'd be able to confirm whether the name I've come up with is the right one. I'm pretty sure it is, though.

So, every morning, I trawl through the California papers to see whether the media has done its job yet, and so far, no dice. I'm sure I am not the only person who has tried to work out the identity of the accuser; I've got it on good authority, for instance, that a reporter who works at the San Francisco Chronicle has sleuthed it out, but is also sitting on it out of respect for the accuser's desire for anonymity. Apparently they have a policy at the Chron about respecting the wishes of "victims" in this regard.

But it's precisely the concept of respecting the wishes of "victims" that needs some pressure here. How do we know this woman was a "victim"? Because she and her lawyer and her outspoken former law professor say she is. That's not knowledge, that is assertion that has been elevated to the status of knowledge by policies such as the Chronicle's. We do not know that this woman is a victim. All we know about her is that she is an accuser (which is why that has been my term of choice for her here at Critical Mass).

Policies dedicated to protecting the anonymity of accusers by casting them as devastated victims do more to conceal the truth and thwart the pursuit of knowledge than anything else. They assume that women never lie, that in particular a woman would never lie about something like sexual harassment or assault. But women do lie about harassment and assault--often. Earlier this month, for example, a UC Davis student who claimed to have been raped on campus recanted her story when police investigators found holes in her account. The Sacramento Bee's report notes that "according to 2001 statistics from the federal Department of Justice, up to 9 percent of sexual assault reports are later determined to be unfounded -- about the same rate for false reporting of other crimes."

Policies dedicated to protecting the anonymity of accusers also assume that women are always right about these things--that in a he said/she said situation like this one, what she says is accurate whereas what he says is wrong. There is no room in such a set of assumptions for the ambiguity that often clouds sexual relations and that obviously clouds this particular case, with its drunkenness, its poor decision making (what sort of a student drapes herself drowsily on her bed while her drunken Dean is peeing in the next room?), its period of unconsciousness (or alcohol-induced blackout), its incomplete recollections, its morning-after regret. Our accuser showed poor judgement several times over that night, by her own account. What's to make us think she's behaving honorably and sensibly now? This is not to "blame the victim," but, rather, to suggest that we do not rightly know at this point just who the victim here is. After all, it's Dwyer who is ruined, not the accuser.

If the media wants to contribute to the heterophobic mythology perpetuated by the sexual harassment industry, then it should continue "reporting" (i.e., spinning) the story as it has been doing up to this point. If, however, the media is serious in its commitment to the truth, it will stop protecting the accuser, stop parrotting her lawyer, and start telling the whole story.

Erin O'Connor, 11:20 AM | Permalink

Reading campus anti-Semitism

In today's Wall Street Journal,Harvard professor Ruth Wisse writes about the ways and means of campus anti-Semitism:

The divestment campaign did not just happen, and speakers assaulting Israel do not appear of themselves. This antipathy to Israel grows from a campus culture that is selectively repressive. All the while that students, in the spirit of diversity, are actively discouraged from making pejorative comments about other vulnerable minorities, some Arab and Muslim students have been actively fomenting hatred of Israel as an expression of their "identity." On campuses with a large Arab presence, such as Wayne State in Detroit, this has resulted in a palpable threat to Jewish students, and outbreaks of physical violence have actually occurred at San Francisco State and Concordia University in Montreal. Since Arab and Muslim students are currently the only ones who exuberantly defame another group, and who blame that group rather than Arab and Muslim governments for the failings of their own anti-democratic societies, it is hardly surprising that they should be joined by others looking for a villain or scapegoat. Anti-Semitism thrives because slandering Israel is the only aggression against a minority that is encouraged by the rules of political correctness.

There's much more.

Erin O'Connor, 10:23 AM | Permalink

December 11, 2002 [feather]
Dwyer is as Dwyer does

A reader has this to say about L'Affaire Dwyer:

This story is as old as the hills. The man was carrying on is a scandalous manner, but he had enough ability that everybody preferred to ignore it. But his conduct was bad enough that if it ever made the news he would have to go immediately. It seems to have shocked nobody that he fell for the reason that he fell. He must bear all the blame for his fate.

Still, there is the question of who pulled the trigger and why. This can happen for good reasons and bad. If, for example, his conduct came to the attention of the police, they would be doing their job by bringing it out. If an activist brings it out for personal gain, i.e. destroys a man for personal gain, then the activist is guilty of a separate offense. In these kinds of cases there is often plenty of blame to go around.

There also seems to be a question of the professors and staff covering up the dean's misdeeds--this seems to indicate more housecleaning is necessary. And which idiot promoted a time-bomb to dean?

If the dean had shown two qualities necessary in a dean then he would still have his job: judgment and self-control. The right thing happened, but for the wrong reason. A typical mess.

It's true that Dwyer was casually known as the "Bill Clinton of Boalt." His own ex-wife describes him as "flirtatious" and charismatic, but she also notes that flirting is not itself criminal behavior, and that the flirting went both ways: "Perhaps he is flirtatious, but he is not a criminal," she said. "I would host parties for his students all the time. He had these young, beautiful law students falling all over him. He was warm, charming and witty. But that is different from sexual assault." Others have made this same point: "a lot of women are attracted to him, and he loves it," says a source in the L.A. Times. "People idolize him, and he feeds off that." What we are getting here is a description of a particular kind of personality--not a description of misbehavior per se. It's important not to leap from the information that Dwyer was something of a local sex symbol to the conclusion that he regularly took advantage of the situation. The sex symbol thing is a fact of academic sociology: every department and every school has faculty the students routinely and collectively fall for. That's not in itself an indictment--it's a description of the peculiarly Oedipal character of professional academic training.

As for the observation that destroying a man for personal or political gain is its own offense, I wholeheartedly agree. If Dwyer was popular with some women students, he was also unpopular among certain constituencies at Boalt. His appointment was protested by minority students at Boalt who felt that he was not fully committed to "diversity." His administration was actively protested by feminist students and faculty who felt he was not fully committed to gender equity. The Boalt Hall Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus protested when Dwyer allowed the military to recruit at Boalt, citing university policy and stating that "given the importance of the military in safeguarding our society, none of our students (indeed, no U.S. citizens) should be denied the chance to serve in the military based on their sexual orientation." Stories about Dwyer's legendary sex appeal have to be taken alongside tales of his alleged insensitivity to the needs and concerns of oppressed groups. More than one reader has written to suggest that the reason Dwyer seems to find himself on the wrong end of university policy is that he had the wrong politics.

Erin O'Connor, 5:44 PM | Permalink

Boalt's Bob Greene

Jack at Captain Yips sends an email comparing the situation of soon-to-be-ex-Boalt Dean John Dwyer to ex-Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene:

There is another way of looking at this that complements the bucket of dead fish smell. Aside from the agenda of the former student and her attorney, there is the school's agenda. This situation is very similar to the dismissal of Bob Greene from The Chicago Tribune earlier this year. ... Greene had been a prominent columnist for the Trib for a long time. Rather a boring one, in a lot of opinions including mine, but he had his audience. Earlier this year he was dismissed nominally for a "improper" relationship with a girl about whom he had written a story. The story and the "relationship" occurred years ago. Recently, she contacted Greene and he seems to have pulled some strings to drive her away. This part of the story is very vague-he may or may not have used a contact at the FBI or he may have had someone pretend to be an FBI agent. No one is talking. The young woman then emailed the editor of the Trib, who pulled the ripcord on Greene. Created a big splash in journalism circles. ... What is interesting and similar is that Greene seems to have womanized industriously for years, and notoriously so within the profession. That Trib management knew about his behavior is beyond doubt. I think that he had become an embarrassment to the organization years ago, and the management took this opportunity to dump him. In the Boalt case, I suspect that the Dean had outworn his welcome, and this accusation was a handy way to expel the unwanted element. Neither Greene nor the Dean (couldn't resist that) did anything they hadn't been doing for years and years and years; in both cases, I think institutional elements had long ago sharpened their knives for them, and were all too happy to take advantage of the accusations. And both men had so much baggage that they couldn't resist.

And Boalt, like the Trib, welcomed the opportunity to cast a political maneuver as a ritual communal cleansing. Neil Sternberg described the Tribune in terms that could as well be applied to Boalt: "Perhaps the most amazing thing about this entire episode is how quickly the Tribune cast its premiere columnist's being fired for using the newspaper as a chick magnet into a moral triumph. The newspaper positively glowed with pride, in a flurry of self-administered back-pats." At Boalt, as at the Tribune, accusations of sexual misconduct have turned a question of political expediency into one of moral necessity. Feminist students and faculty at Boalt have protested Dwyer's deanship as a sexist regime since he got the job two years ago. Now they not only have their "proof," but they have a situation that conveniently reframes ideological differences as ethical ones: it is no longer a question of whether Dwyer's managerial style excludes women, but one of what can be done to prevent similar predators from terrorizing women students in the future. Key word: conveniently.

UPDATE: A reader disagrees with the analogy between Dwyer and Greene:

...the post analogizing this case to the Greene case is way off. The irony of this case is that Dean Dwyer was doing a lot of good for Boalt. His mission was to take Boalt from a top-ten law school to one of the top two or three. He had increased minority and women enrollment even compared to the last year before Prop 209 outlawed race- and gender-based admissions policies. He spent a lot of time raising money for the school to great success. He could be found most nights and weekends working late at the law school and then back again early in the morning.

Touche: the analogy is a bad one if we see it as a comparison of Dwyer and Greene as professionals. But: it is an excellent one if we see it as a comparison of Berkeley and the Chicago Tribune as institutions. That one man was enormously effective in his job and the other was, according to some, past his prime merely underscores the indiscriminately ritualized nature of the institutional script the school and the paper each followed when the accusational shoe dropped.

Erin O'Connor, 10:55 AM | Permalink

December 10, 2002 [feather]
Multicultural Jim Crow

Are colleges and universities rediscovering segregation? Multiculturalism as it is practised on many campuses is indeed a separatist enterprise, dedicated to "celebrating diversity" by defining identity in terms of ethnicity (as if people were never more nor less than representatives of a similarly skinned group) and preaching tolerance by outlawing expression that could be construed as "racial harassment."

Suzanne Fields argues that the ethnic theme houses that are so touted by many campuses as signs of their superior commitment to diversity actually reinvent the culture of Jim Crow:

Ethnic houses actually encourage what they decry, by infantilizing students, pampering them in their ethnic insecurities, and creating a divisiveness through racial stereotyping. A Latino student gives away the insidiousness of this approach, describing how he found his blood roots at Amherst: "For me, there's more consciousness of my background as a Latino male," he says. "Before I came to Amherst, I wasn't thinking about race or class or gender or sexual orientation, I was just thinking about people wanting to learn."

I've written about the segregationist tendencies contained within the separate minority orientations many colleges offer in the name of diversity here, here, here, and here

UPDATE: A reader writes, "After reading your entry on campus segregation today and then listening to all the things said about Trent Lott, I have to wonder why the old segregationist Dixiecrats are not being hailed for what they really were -- men with a socially progressive vision who were far ahead of their time. Can the George C. Wallace dorm for students of non-color be far away?" Good question. The ironic answer: a good number of people would argue that the George C. Wallace dorm for students of non-color already exists--that, indeed, the entire university system is dedicated to white studies--and that this is precisely the reason why ethnic dorms are needed.

For an account of how ethnic dorms operate at Cornell, see this piece from today's FrontPage.

Erin O'Connor, 7:11 PM | Permalink

More Boalting

Debra Saunders thinks the Boalt case smells funny:

You'd think the tenor of this story would be: The system works. The student made her own choices as to when and how she would report the incident. The school promptly investigated. Dwyer resigned.

But attorney Stevens complained to The San Francisco Chronicle that the former student might sue if UC doesn't strengthen its sexual harassment policies. Strengthen? We don't know the specific proposals, but would more training have made a difference here? The school can't investigate a complaint without addressing who was assaulted, can it? As UC spokesperson Janet Gilmore noted, "If a formal complaint is filed against someone, certainly that person is entitled to know that he's been accused of something."

Remember that little item in the Sixth Amendment about the accuser having a right to know charges against him and to be confronted with his accusers? Stevens complained to The San Francisco Chronicle that Berkeley does little to train staff on sexual harassment: "Their policies and procedures on sexual harassment are minimal. They don't distribute them. They have failed utterly."

Hello. Dwyer is the dean of the law school. It's not as if a feminist pamphlet that repeats the oft-heard "no means no" mantra will enlighten him. If he did what he's accused of, and we don't know that he did, it's not because he didn't know the law or the Faculty Code of Conduct.

And doesn't the fact that Dwyer resigned send a stronger message about unacceptable behavior than any line you can read in "Berkeley Campus Policy on Sexual Harassment and Complaint Resolution Procedures?" Frankly, I don't believe that the training and pamphlets make a difference.

Well, they make a difference in liability, or so the sexual harassment industry has convinced corporations and schools. But no, they don't make sense as a rule, not least because they tend to substitute the assumption that all men are always already guilty of harassment and all women are always already victims of it for prompt and fair handling of discrete cases. That approach, in turn, primes the scene for ever more accusations and grievances in the future. Under the guise of "training," the sexual harassment industry (in which universities are a major player) teaches men and women that there are no workplace encounters between the sexes that are not fraught, no interactions that do not contain within them the potential for someone (guess who?) to abuse their power.

Definitions of harassment are ever expanding; at many colleges, a false word, look, or even a gesture--anything that makes a woman feel uncomfortable as a woman--are fair game. Combine that with the heightened sensitivities produced by the aptly named sensitivity training and the all-too common denial of due process to the accused, and you've got an unpleasant, potentially explosive situation indeed.

Thus do demands for increased training and "education" about a problem that the sexual harassment industry has itself defined into being ensure that the sexual harassment industry stays in business; thus, ironically, is the likelihood of a lawsuit increased by the very measures taken to prevent them.

Erin O'Connor, 6:51 PM | Permalink

December 8, 2002 [feather]
Tightening the Boalt

Today's San Francisco Chronicle prints a profile of John Dwyer, the Boalt Hall dean who recently stepped down after being accused of sexual harassment by a former Boalt law student. It's an obvious placemarker, a way to keep the story alive in the absence of new developments, and it performs its task by printing two kinds of material: biographical information about Dwyer (twin emphases on his career history and his sexual history) and speculation (most notably by Dwyer's estranged brother, who is quoted as saying, when he heard Dwyer was in trouble, "I bet he's in trouble for sexual harassment").

The Chronicle paints a portrait of a brilliant workaholic who was also an accomplished lady's man, emphasizing both his many professional achievements and the many notches in his belt (Dwyer has been married and divorced three times, he was a known flirt, women law students flocked to him). All well and good, though the article proceeds from the premise that Dwyer did what he was accused of doing (why else include gossip about his interpersonal style and reprint his brother's nasty surmise?) rather than investigating the accusation itself. It's true that Dwyer has not responded to requests for interviews, and that does make it hard to present both sides of the story. But it's equally true that the media could be doing more than it has to investigate the nature and veracity of the accusations levelled against him.

This is to me the most frustrating aspect of the Boalt situation: the media's willingness to credit a vastly damaging series of allegations made by an anonymous accuser via an openly hostile lawyer who has publicly announced that her goal is to use the media to ensure that Dwyer never works again. This is neither serious nor credible journalism.

What would be serious and credible: outing the accuser. It would not be hard to do, as a great deal of information about her has made it into the papers at this point. We know she was a 2002 Boalt graduate, that while at Boalt she was active in the Berkeley Law Foundation, that now she works in a public interest law firm in San Francisco, and, most importantly, that she wrote her thesis under the guidance of Boalt law professor Linda Hamilton Krieger, whose willingness to talk to the press about her role in the affair has obligingly narrowed the field of possible accusers down to a very small number of women indeed. All we need now is a list of 2002 women Boalt grads who did their theses with Krieger. Find out who among them is now working at a public interest firm in SF, and you've got your girl (or, worst case scenario, your short list).

Why do I think it's important to out the accuser? Because that's the only way to elevate innuendo to news. Who is this woman? What's her story? What does she have to say for herself, when lawyers and professors aren't speaking for her? What are her motives? If this story is newsworthy--and papers around the world have decided that it is--then surely it's important to know whose story it is. In behaving like a moral sniper--taking ruinous public shots at Dwyer while hiding behind the veil of victimhood--the accuser is operating from within an indefensible double standard (one whose ugliness is most clear when one reflects that in expecting her desire for anonymity to be honored, she is counting on Dwyer to be too much of a gentleman to name her). A self-respecting press would not unquestioningly protect her, but would seek instead to get the whole, messy story and report it as such.

Ah, but therein lies the rub: reporting the whole messy story would most likely change the story. The issue would cease to be what a predator Dwyer is, and how remiss Berkeley's harassment procedures are. The issue would instead become one of institutional malpractice: reporting the whole, messy story would most likely involve acknowledging how loaded and problematic the concept of sexual harassment is, how open to abuse it is, how damaging false accusations are, and how much incentive there is to make false or frivolous accusations. It would involve noting that no matter what happened between Dwyer and the student one December night in 2000, what has happened since has followed what is by now a very familiar, very oversimplified, very vindictive script. But who wants to read that story? Or write it, for that matter? It's so much more fun to repeat rumors about where Dwyer put his fingers.

UPDATE: the San Jose Mercury News is also running a story on the Boalt case today. It sticks to the issues a bit better than the Chronicle piece does, but still concludes with a ringing endorsement of the alleged "victim" (and of victimization):

The Boalt Hall Women's Association and the Berkeley Women's Law Journal says Dwyer's resignation is a signal that ``sexual harassment and assault in the law school environment have gone unaddressed for too long.'' The group urges sexual-harassment sensitivity training for all faculty and staff members.

``She didn't feel that she could come forward while she was a student here,'' said Alisa Nave, president of the Boalt Hall Women's Association. ``And that's what needs to change.''

UPDATE UPDATE: A woman reader writes:

If Dwyer's such a stud, doesn't it seem unlikely he'd be groping someone passed out, even if he's drunk? This sounds like Anita Hill all over again. The victim is saintly, except when she wasn't. Does this woman have an alcohol problem? Has she done this before? She's an adult and I think it behooves her come out from behind the skirts of her lawyer. If she was under-age, I would be more sympathetic to her anonymity.

That makes two of us. If Dwyer's reputation as a flirt is relevant, so is whether the accuser has a drinking problem and whether she has a history of levelling accusations (false or otherwise).

Erin O'Connor, 12:34 PM | Permalink

December 7, 2002 [feather]
Only whites can be racist

Yesterday I noted how the notion that only whites can be racist is gaining enormous currency on college campuses, where it fuels both diversity training programs and the curriculum. Case in point: Ethic Studies 1 at UC Riverside. "Introduction to Race and Ethnicity" promises to "introduce students to major concepts and controversial issues in the study of race and ethnicity and shall provide a general overview of topics to be covered in more specialized Ethnic Studies courses." Based on the course evaluation posted on NoIndoctrination.org, the main "major concepts" introduced in the course were the indisputable truths that racism is pervasive in American society, that institutionalized racism accounts for blacks' collective underachievement, and that only whites can be racist:

In an attempt to justify the uneven socio-economic conditions of African Americans in the United States today, the professor blamed the conditions on overt racism everyday by white people all across the nation. The professor essentially defined racism as an opinion or attitude of a white individual toward an individual of color. I then asked him, ìDoes this mean that an individual of color in America can not be racist?î He responded, telling me that was correct. Based on the oppression that African Americans experienced in America, they could not be racist. The professor was so excessive on this perspective that some of the black students in the class actually told me that he made them uncomfortable. White racism was absolutely the theme of every lecture. The class was consistent with the title of the course, ëRacism in America.í Since the professor believed only white people could be racist, naturally the whole course was about white racism.


...the TA also supported the professorís assertions about how only white people can be racist. She told us that people of color could be prejudiced toward whites or other people of color. However they were not in a position to be racist. It was really unusual, as if they were redefining these words for their course.

For those who are new to this particular ideological twilight zone, the rationale for this argument goes like this: only those who enjoy social power and privilege (i.e., whites) can be racist. The disenfranchised cannot, by definition, be racist because they lack the power to institutionalize any prejudices they may have. There is a corollary to this argument that goes like this: all whites are by definition racist. The privilege of white skin, the argument goes, makes this inevitable.

Jane Elliot, the famous diversity trainer, prides herself on her ability to get whites to recognize their racism during the course of her sessions. It's a painful process, and most whites are very resistant to it. But it's worth it to her and to the many, many Jane Elliot knockoffs out there on the diversity circuit. Why? Because this is about spiritual awakening and rebirth. Once recognized, racism can be repudiated, and the born-again counter-supremacist can begin to walk the path of multicultural salvation.

I use the religious imagery here deliberately. People who preach these ideas preach them. They believe them to be true, having accepted them on faith. That's one reason why this course on ethnic studies did not include alternative perspectives on race and presented an ideologically loaded theory as simple fact. For the professor and the T.A., most likely, the theory is fact.

Erin O'Connor, 12:20 PM | Permalink

December 6, 2002 [feather]
Byatt and biography

My essay on A.S. Byatt's The Biographer's Tale was recently published in Victorian Studies. An electronic version of it is available here.

Erin O'Connor, 6:20 PM | Permalink

Unsexing the classroom

Food for thought: a Washington Times piece on how urban kids are benefitting from single-sex classrooms.

Erin O'Connor, 9:54 AM | Permalink

Mayoral newspaper theft

Newspaper theft is an integral, if illegal, part of campus culture. Like speech codes, diversity requirements, and lack of funding for conservative student groups, newspaper theft occupies a hallowed place in the illiberal rites of American higher ed. Usually, it's leftwing student activists who steal press runs of papers that are printing "offensive" and "insensitive" material (witness recent episodes at Brown and Berkeley). Now, however, Berkeley's mayor has gotten in on the action. Seems he didn't like the Daily Cal's endorsement of his opponent--so he stole and trashed 1000 copies of the paper (1/8 of the total press run), one day before the election, which he then won. The Daily Cal is calling for his resignation. But others don't seem too upset. As Berkeley councilmember Betty Olds explains, "He can say it was like Michael Jacksonóit was one moment of weakness, like when he dangled his kid over the balcony."

Erin O'Connor, 9:42 AM | Permalink

Ed school indoctrination

From NoIndoctrination.org, excerpts from a course evaluation of Portland State's Education 420, a graduate course on education and society required for all who want to become teachers:

After one of the few mainstream readings, on multiculturalism in education by Diane Ravitch (former Undersecretary of Education in the first Bush Administration), the professor commented on how wrongheaded but "very seductive" her writing was. We were told that as white males (if we were white males - which I am, as were 2 or 3 other people) we needed to recognize that we were "persons of privilege". No evidence was offered for this, nor were any reasons given that this might not be the case. We were told that we (all of us who were white anyway) were racists and that we could not help not being racists and that we needed to recognize this.


There were very few readings that offered anything in terms of an alternative point of view to extreme liberalism/socialism. The assigned readings for one week were by Carol Gilligan and the American Assn of University Women on the subject of how girls were discriminated against in education (with no alternative opinon offered). I asked a couple of weeks in advance if the professor could list as optional reading Christina Hoff Somers' "The War Against Boys" article from The Atlantic Monthly (which persuasively refutes the tenets of the aformentioned Gilligan and AAUW articles) as alternative reading. I gave him my copy of the magazine to review 2 weeks in advance. All he had to do was list the Atlantic web site address on where to find the article to list it as optional reading...no worrys about copys or copyrights. I never heard back from him about my request (although he did give me the magazine back a few weeks later) and it did NOT appear as part of the optional reading...


One of the books, "Rethinking Our Classrooms" was from http://www.rethinkingschools.org/. I would call this book nonsense if only the ideas inside of it weren't so off base as to be harmful. It provides practical ways in which your children can be taught about the horrible injustices of capitalism and the wonderful world of communism (yes, it teaches only about the wonderful theoretical parts of communism on a child's level). Whites are persons of privilege and only whites can be racist because only whites have the power to be oppressors. Basic skills are trashed. I kept this book...but only as a great example of how some "teachers" (people who SHOULD be teaching children ACADEMIC subjects but apparently don't have the time for that) are trying to indoctrinate children.

Here is the textbook this individual cites. It's subtitle, "Teaching for Justice and Equity," pretty much says it all. It includes chapters on why standardized testing is bad, how to teach students the difference between flirting and sexual harassment, and how to "confront" "student resistance." Rethinkingschools.org sells many such teaching aids. My personal favorite is Rethinking Globalization: Teaching for Justice in an Unjust World. Check out the table of contents: it's Marxism specially packaged for kids aged 9-18. The Christina Hoff Sommers piece debunking the widely accepted AAUW line about how our schools are shortchanging girls is online here. The bit about white privilege? Standard fare in college courses on sociology, education, women's studies, ethnic studies, even history and literature. It's also the animating principle behind much campus diversity training. One of the earliest popularizers of the concept was Wellesley women's studies professor Peggy Macintosh, whose essay "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" helped launch a deeply problematic--even racist--idea that has nonetheless become axiomatic in many corners of academe.

The syllabi of ed courses like this one tell us a great deal about how blatantly ideological our system of teacher training is. There is a saying that those who can't do, teach. Perhaps there should also be a saying that those who can't teach, indoctrinate.

Erin O'Connor, 9:11 AM | Permalink

December 5, 2002 [feather]
Free association

A Harvard Crimson editorial celebrates the Undergraduate Council's decision not to fund a campus Christian group whose charter stipulates that the group's leaders must subscribe to the group's ìPrinciples of Faith.î According to the author of the editorial, who is also a member of the aforementioned Undergraduate Council, such a stipulation is blatantly discriminatory, and the U.C. should thus be lauded for denying the group funding. Trouble is, he's flat wrong--as a recent case at Tufts aptly demonstrates. What this student calls discrimination, constitutional law calls "freedom of association." The Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship has the right to form its own rules about who is eligible for office within the organization. It also now has the right to claim that it is being unfairly discriminated against by Harvard's Undergraduate Council.

I've written about freedom of association and the funding of student groups here and here.

Crimson link via James Taranto.

Erin O'Connor, 3:14 PM | Permalink

Unbuttoning the Boalt case

The Contra Costa Times has more on the sexual harassment debacle at Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law. Some choice excerpts:

The victim's attorney, Berkeley lawyer Laura Stevens, said her client has not gone to police because media coverage of the accusation will be more effective in preventing Dwyer from obtaining future jobs than the court system would be.


Shortly before his appointment as dean, Dwyer faced fierce criticism from students and faculty who criticized his commitment to diversifying the student body in light of Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action in admissions decisions.


The most difficult thing is, nobody can take a stand," third-year law student Jarrett Green said. "People on this campus take great pride in quickly forming opinions and then zealously standing behind them and battling for them, but the problem in this case is nobody really knows what happened."

Remarkable candor from the lawyer, which reveals motives very like those I imagined she might have for using the media as she is. Justice is not the issue here; destroying Dwyer is. The media, Stevens well knows, is ready to report whatever story she feeds it, and will embellish along the way (by the time the London Independent got hold of the story, Dwyer had not simply groped the accuser, but had tried to rape her). The media will run with allegations--which could be false, which certainly are designed to smear--and report it as news. The media will ruin Dwyer with a thoroughness and speed that the legal system, with its red tape and its procedures and, well, its laws, cannot--even though, as the law student quoted above aptly notes, "nobody really knows what happened." That's the point. No one ever will. This is he said/she said, and will never rise above that. That's a deal breaker in the courts, but not in the media, where a penchant for reporting gossip as news runs very deep indeed.

Related note: I've gotten some mail from readers who think they smell an even bigger rat than I do here (which is saying something). They point to the controversy that surrounded Dwyer's appointment as Dean, and suggest that there may be an ideological connection to be made between the protests that some students and faculty raised when Dwyer was appointed and the present pillorying of him for not only "molesting" a student (the word is that of the eloquent counsel, Laura Stevens) but for failing to enforce anti-discrimination law at Boalt (in the form of publicizing Berkeley's harassment policy, training staff, and so on).

Resistance to Dwyer's appointment came from those who felt that he did not have a proper commitment to "diversity;" in other words, from those who were worried that Dwyer's belief in standard admissions criteria (grades, scores) would adversely affect minority admissions to Boalt in the wake of Proposition 209, which outlawed the use of race as an admissions criterion in California state schools. Here's a quote from a February 2000 letter thirteen students wrote to request that Dwyer not be considered for the Deanship: ìProfessor Dwyerís previous record on the diversity issue gives us great cause for concern. ... He has consistently supported increased dependence on (test scores and grade point averages) in the evaluation of applications despite well-informed proof from his colleagues that this reliance would have clear and adverse effects on our ability to admit students of color.î As it turns out, minority admissions increased dramatically during Dwyer's tenure as dean. But all hell broke loose in 2001, when Boalt moved to hire Dan Farber, a white male, for a position in environmental law. The cries of gender bias were loud, and led by the Boalt Hall Women's Association. The Boalt student body, it should be noted, is 60% female.

Is there anything here? Certainly it helps to know that Dwyer has been getting accused of discrimination ever since his candidacy for the job of dean became known. It helps, too, to know that these accusations have not always been made in good faith. Some of them were made on spec (as with the students, who turned out to be mistaken about Dwyer's "commitment to diversity"). Some of them were opportunistic (as with those who described Dan Farber as "just one more white male on the faculty when we have so many"). So now we know something about the climate in which the present allegations of harassment (and inadequate policy) have been made. But whether there is more here remains to be seen.

Thanks to John Rosenberg for the link to the Contra Costa Times.

UPDATE: Peter Sean Bradley has a thorough and provocative legal analysis of the Boalt case. His pivotal point: while there may have been sexual battery, there does not seem to have been harassment:

The real question in the Dwyer case, though, is where is the sexual harassment? At its core, sexual harassment involves a misuse of the power relationship inherent in employment. Thus, sexual harassment can involve quid pro quo, where sex is traded for benefits or to avert threats, or "hostile work environment," where the workplace, or schoolsite, is affected by severe or pervasive sexually offensive conduct, displays or communications. With all due respect, while fondling a drunken woman off the work or school site may constitute sexual battery, it does not clearly involve actionable sexual harassment unless the Dean's position was used to advance the sexual battery. For that matter, given recent decisions that sexual batteries by police officers are not within the course and scope of employment, Berkeley may have no liability if the alleged sexual battery is proven.

Read the whole thing.

Erin O'Connor, 9:33 AM | Permalink

St. Cloud unsettled

King Banaian of SCSUScholars disputes the Washington Post coverage of St. Cloud State's recent settlement of a lawsuit alleging systematic discrimination against Jews (he also raps my knuckles for "fall[ing] into the trap of believing the slanted reporting of the Washington Post"). While I hardly think my brief notice of the settlement demonstrates flagrant credulity on my part, Banaian has a point about the selective reporting of the media. According to Banaian, the case had no merit. He'll be posting more as he can.

Erin O'Connor, 8:32 AM | Permalink

December 4, 2002 [feather]
Admit oppression or else

On NoIndoctrination.org, a University of Michigan student posts an account of the mandatory diversity training she underwent as preparation for her job as a residential advisor:

All students who wish to be in the University of Michigan's ResStaff program (those who wish to be Residence Hall Assistants) need to take a class which is worth about half as many credits as a normal class. The class is Psychology 405, Social Psychology in Community Settings. ResStaff's website states that the course's purpose is to "enhance each student's ability to analyze... differences and commonalties among cultural groups and group foundations of justice and injustice..." (http://www.housing.umich.edu/resed/app/information/staff_class.html). The class instructors made sure to encourage that we voice our opinion on the discussion topics, but it soon became clear to me that this was not their preference. I spent the first half of the class avoiding trouble by keeping my mouth shut. We read many articles on victimization, oppression, etc. of minorities. But I had no choice when an activity called for full participation; we had to go around and talk about at least one way in which we have been/are oppressed. When my turn came up, and I answered that I have never been oppressed, the instructor corrected me, saying that I must have been, as I'm female. I persisted, saying that being female has never been anything short of a blessing for me. The instructor was relentless, insisting that I was necessarily oppressed at one point in my life. The instructor asked to speak with me after class. He was visibly shaken and angry. He told me that my classroom behavior was disruptive in the least (although I was never voluntarily disagreeing), and that I would be kicked out of class and would thereby lose my job and my housing for the next year unless I learned to be more cooperative. An article exposing the class' leftist agenda was published in the University of Michigan's conservative newspaper, The Michigan Review, but there is no link available to the article online.

Points to note: 1) serving as an R.A. at UM means signing on to a particular politics; 2) official ideology trumps personal experience; 3) departure from the normative politics equals false consciousness, deliberate disruption, or both; 4) the scenario of "teaching tolerance" is inherently intolerant; 5) as such, it replicates the very patterns of oppression it claims to resist and repudiate: it is no small irony here that in threatening a newly hired R.A. with termination and eviction because she committed the sin of disagreeing with him, this male instructor may be said to have oppressed his female student. Certainly, within the logic of gender discrimination, it is discriminatory for a man to try to coerce a woman into accepting his understanding of her own experience.

Erin O'Connor, 11:14 AM | Permalink

St. Cloud settles

Minnesota's St. Cloud State University has settled a class action lawsuit claiming that the university systematically discriminated against Jews. St. Cloud State will pay more than $300,000 in damages, alter its hiring and faculty review practices, create a Jewish campus center (and fund it, and hire a coordinator for it), and send its entire faculty and staff to sensitivity training (students already take a required course in Respect and Responsibility).

For years, the campus has been the scene of anti-Semitic flyers and comments; three professors and a student who were the target of more personal discrimination will receive damages.

Students and faculty at SFSU and the many other schools that have allowed anti-Semitism to take root on their campuses might want to think about taking similar measures.

Erin O'Connor, 9:35 AM | Permalink

December 3, 2002 [feather]
Suing is as suing does

More on the Boalt case: If this does lead to a lawsuit, it will not be the first time Laura Stevens has represented a client suing UC Berkeley for discrimination. In early 2001, Berkeley's Haas School of Business settled a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by a single mother who claimed she was unfairly denied admission to the school's part-time evening MBA program. The plaintiff had a team of lawyers, one of whom was ... Laura Stevens.

Stevens is a civil rights attorney who professes to some expertise in using discrimination lawsuits to squeeze corporations--and now universities--to change their policies:

"I have seen corporations really review and revamp personnel policies in response to allegations made formally or informally," says Laura Stevens. "I would not go so far as to say anybody actually sees the light, but they do see the light on the balance sheet. They see how costly it is to resist equal employment, and as a result of that change their ways."

Stevens describes one client she had, a food processing plant that operated canneries in the Northwest, that was successfully sued by the EEOC for its sex-based job classifications. While the lawsuit was in progress, the company opened a new cannery in southern California, with the same discriminatory policies. "I showed them the legal bills they had already incurred in the North, and told them you can have the same thing in the South. I said 'You can make me rich, but it won't do you any good.'" Her client took her advice and changed its policy.

This sounds rather like her proposed plan of action with UC Berkeley. Note her wording: "I have seen corporations really review and revamp personnel policies in response to allegations made formally or informally." The accusation is the lever for policy change. Forget truth, forget due process. Threat is all.

Erin O'Connor, 4:25 PM | Permalink

He said, she said

I wrote at length yesterday about the allegations of sexual harassment--now upgraded by an angry lawyer to sexual assault--that led the dean of Berkeley's law school, John Dwyer, to resign. Dwyer stepped down last week, saying that he no longer felt he could lead the school, acknowledging with regret a single encounter two years ago with a law student, stressing that no intercourse took place, and characterizing the encounter as "consensual." That word touched a nerve with the anonymous accuser--now a public interest lawyer--and her lawyer, who told the media that there was nothing consensual about the encounter and supported that claim with details about the nature and circumstances of the encounter (alcohol, unconsciousness, opportunism, and disagreement about the facts were all apparently involved).

I have been wondering what the goal of the accusation, made two years after the fact, truly is. And I have been wondering, too, what the lawyer hopes to gain by feeding the media prurient detail in order to discredit the dean's claim. The story is that the student did not file charges while she was still enrolled at Boalt because she wanted to preserve anonymity and feared retaliation. Okay--but what makes her think her identity is going to stay secret when her lawyer is encouraging the press to circulate graphic details of Dwyer's alleged assault? What is she really after? If she wanted justice, it would seem that she got it when Dwyer resigned in a cloud of repentant shame. If she wanted anonymity, it would seem that she would not use the media to press the point about whether the encounter was or was not "consensual." Dwyer is out of a job, he is humiliated, and somehow, miraculously, the identity of the accuser is still not public. And yet, she and her lawyer press on.

A clue to what they are after appears in Florida's Herald Tribune this morning. Here is the lawyer, Laura Stevens:

Stevens said Berkeley is obligated to "train and educate the whole community about this social phenomenon of sexual abuse and heighten people's interest in the subject in a positive way to prevent it, to create an environment that is likely to prevent it and likely to aid a victim in a positive way if it still does occur. That has not happened and that's what we want to have happen."

Next on the docket: a push for mandatory sensitivity training at Berkeley.

UPDATE: According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the accuser may sue if UC Berkeley "does not strengthen its policies and procedures to comply with state and federal laws." According to Laura Stevens, "Our goal is prevention, not punishment. ... The main thing she is seeking is compliance." Stevens added that Berkeley does not do its job when it comes to educating staff about sexual harassment. "Their policies and procedures on sexual harassment are minimal. They don't distribute them. They have failed utterly," Stevens said. "Nobody who works there has ever gotten any training. They never did what they were required to do."

So an outdated accusation by an unnamed accuser has not only ruined one man's career (to be accused of sexual harassment is to be guilty of it in today's touchy climate) but is now becoming a lever for forcing policy change at the University of California. That policy change will in turn carry a distinct political agenda, one that--we can bet--demonizes men as de facto victimizers and that infantilizes women as helpless victims.

There is a phenomenal book on how the sexual harassment industry has become an extraordinarily profitable, and enormously destructive, arm of the feminist movement, particularly on America's campuses. If you want to read more, check out Daphne Patai's stunning Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Future of Feminism.

UPDATE UPDATE: The story gets better the more it circulates. The London Independent is now--wrongly--reporting that Dwyer was accused of rape. It's hard not to imagine that this sort of hysterical inflation isn't just what the talkative lawyer is hoping the media will accomplish for her client.

Erin O'Connor, 9:57 AM | Permalink

Exterminate the brutes

Last month I wrote about the tensions at Vanderbilt surrounding the school's politically motivated decision to remove the word "Confederate" from the problematically named Confederate Memorial Hall. The United Daughters of the Confederacy, which raised much of the money for the building decades ago, was appalled by the decision, and sued Vanderbilt for breach of contract. Since then, ire and outrage have continued to run high in Tennessee, and have characteristically extended far beyond the immediate issue--whether a building's name can legally be changed without the consent of the donor after whom it is named--to the legitimacy, or lack thereof, of southern history, of Confederate culture, and, most disturbingly, of Confederate descendants.

The Washington Times quotes liberally from an editorial written by Vanderbilt math professor Jonathan Farley, whose contribution to the debate about the building's name amounts to a condemnation of any Southerner who takes any pride whatsoever in his heritage. Pronouncing Confederates to be "cowards masquerading as civilized men," Farley explicitly regrets that the Civil War was not concluded with geographical genocide: "Every Confederate soldier deserved not a hallowed resting place at the end of his days but a reservation at the end of the gallows," he wrote, noting that those descendants of the Confederacy who cherish their heritage are "the new holocaust revisionists." Comparing Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest to a "19th century Hitler," he adds that "the race problems that wrack America to this day are due largely to the fact that the Confederacy was not thoroughly destroyed, its leaders and soldiers executed, and their lands given to the landless freed slaves."

Farley is an untenured assistant professor of Jamaican and Guyanan descent; Vanderbilt administrators support his right to speak his mind, saying that he is protected by academic freedom.

Isn't it wonderful how readily the fight against racism becomes indistinguishable from the worst sorts of supremacist thinking? How quickly the demand for tolerance and inclusion becomes a call for extermination?

Erin O'Connor, 9:28 AM | Permalink

FrontPage fact check

FrontPage is running a piece today on NoIndoctrination.org, the watchdog site that allows students to anonymously assess bias in the classroom. FrontPage joins the Chronicle of Higher Education, the San Francisco Chronicle, and, most notably, the always eloquent Stanley Kurtz in its coverage, and is unique in giving a glimpse of some of the nasty email the site's founder, Luann Wright, has received from academics who think NoIndoctrination.org is everything from "silly" and not "meaningful" to "reminiscent of Nazi Germany." Too bad the FrontPage piece discredits itself by making sloppy errors of fact. The writer misspells both "NoIndoctrination.org" (failing to capitalize the "I" in "indoctrination") and the name of the site's founder (it's "Luann" Wright, not "Louann"). The writer also misreports the name of the UCSD professor whose freshman composition course on race moved Wright to activism (it's not "Laura" Brodkey, but "Linda" Brodkey). Poor editing or a sign of deeper inattention to fact? It doesn't matter in the end--the result is that a piece that could have helped to enhance the credibility of this controversial site comes off instead as an ill-conceived hack job in its own right.

Critical Mass has been tracking NoIndoctrination.org since early October.

Erin O'Connor, 8:49 AM | Permalink

December 2, 2002 [feather]
Belated accusations at Boalt

The Dean of UC Berkeley's Boalt Law School has resigned after being accused of sexual harassment. Dean John Dwyer acknowledges having had what the Daily Californian calls a "single consensual encounter" with a student two years ago, but also stressed in an internal memo that "there is no allegation any form of sexual intercourse occurred" and that the student had not taken any of his classes. Campus sexual harassment policy requires complaints to be filed within 90 days of the incident:

The time limit for filing a written complaint is ninety (90) calendar days from the time the complainant knew or should have known of an act(s) of sexual harassment or action taken as a result of alleged sexual harassment or thirty working days after mediation (section V-A above) has been completed, whichever is later, or in accordance with time limits set by applicable Academic Senate Procedures.

That can be extended at the discretion of the Complaint Resolution Officers:

If the complainant did not initiate mediation or complaint resolution processes under section V above within the time limits of the applicable formal complaint policy, the CRO may, under the appropriate circumstances, recommend to the appropriate administrator an extension of the filing deadline for a formal complaint.

This complaint comes two years after the fact, appears not be terribly substantive, and yet has ended a career. Let's hope the CRO who allowed it to be filed took pains to ensure there was something to it--the time lag certainly suggests that the alleged harassment was not exactly pressing, and does suggest that it has, for some reason, recently become convenient for the accuser to accuse.

Worth noting: While Berkeley's harassment code requires professors to "avoid any exploitation, harassment or discriminatory treatment of students," it does not forbid faculty-student relationships.

Also worth nothing: there is a strong tendency within higher education toward unconstitutional sexual misconduct policies that deny due process to the accused. Recent events at Columbia and Harvard are highly instructive in this regard.

UPDATE: The San Jose Mercury News reports that the accuser's lawyer says the encounter Dwyer describes as "consensual" was actually sexual assault. The details? All too-typical: they involve heavy drinking, passing out, and disagreement after the fact about what really happened. The story? An also all-too typical account of victimization, first at the hands of the evil predatorial dean, and then at the hands of the Berkeley bureaucracy.

The lawyer has crafted quite a tale of woe for her client. She reports that the student, who has since graduated and passed the bar exam, did not file a complaint at the time because she feared retaliation. According to the lawyer, the student did seek counseling, and she also approached both the university's Title IX officer and three different women law professors. Apparently, the Title IX officer was incompetent, and claimed not to know what the protocol was for dealing with a complaint against a dean. The officer also said that she could neither guarantee the student anonymity nor protect her from retaliation if she went public. The three women law professors are made out to be similarly lacking in professionalism--the lawyer reports that they each refused to become involved, citing fear of retaliation and indicating that the student's concerns were not their responsibility.

It's a heart-wrenching story. Trouble is that real life doesn't usually play out in such starkly binary terms.

UPDATE UPDATE: The San Francisco Chronicle delivers even more detail from the lawyer:

Dwyer hooked up late one night with a group of students who had spent a celebratory night drinking. After the woman got separated from her friends, Dwyer offered to give her a ride home to her Oakland apartment, Stevens [the lawyer] said.

While he used her bathroom, the woman, who was intoxicated, passed out on her bed, Stevens said. When she woke up, she discovered that her panty hose had been removed, her skirt pushed up around her waist and her shirt pushed up to her neck. Dwyer was on top of her with his hand inside her vagina, the lawyer said.

"She knew him almost not at all. There was no date. No flirtation. No implication of the possibility of consent," said Stevens. "There was nothing."

That certainly sounds non-consensual. But it also sounds like the lawyer and her client are playing a dangerous game. In using prurient erotic detail to publicly dispute Dwyer's characterization of the encounter as consensual, they are baiting him. So far Dwyer has tactfully not named his accuser--one wonders how long he will continue to honor her desire for anonymity when her lawyer is accusing him of being both a liar and a sexual predator.

Erin O'Connor, 10:29 AM | Permalink

Fightin' Whites fellowships

Last year, a group of Native American students at the University of North Colorado asked a local high school to change its "Fighting Reds" mascot to something less offensive. When the school refused, UNC students formed an intramural basketball team called the "Fightin' Whites." Conceived as a means of making the point about how mascots can carry and reinforce stereotypes, the team drew enough media attention that it began selling Fightin' White-obilia bearing the slogan "Everythang's going to be all white." Proceeds were put into a fund to provide scholarships for Native American students. Today the Washington Times reports that the Fightin' Whites have sold over 15,000 shirts and hats, and that the scholarship fund now contains at least $100,000.

Attention campus censors: this is what's called fighting offensive speech with more speech. Ain't it great?

Erin O'Connor, 9:42 AM | Permalink

December 1, 2002 [feather]
Swift kicks

Jonathan Rauch has a modest proposal for combatting America's obesity crisis: tax the fat.

Erin O'Connor, 9:21 PM | Permalink

Take the test

Via Brian Micklethwait, an 8th-grade final exam from 1895.

UPDATE: Turns out it's a hoax. The full scoop is here. Thanks to Joanne Jacobs for passing the link along.

Erin O'Connor, 8:51 AM | Permalink