In recent years, politicians led by President Obama and prominent senators and governors have teamed with extremists on campus to portray our nation’s institutions of higher learning as awash in a violent crime waveand to suggest (preposterously) that university leaders, professors, and students are indifferent to female sexual assault victims in their midst. Neither of these claims has any bearing to reality. But they have achieved widespread acceptance, thanks in part to misleading alarums from the Obama administration and biased media coverage led by The New York Times.
The frenzy about campus rape has helped stimulateand has been fanned byideologically skewed campus sexual assault policies and lawless commands issued by federal bureaucrats to force the nation’s all-too-compliant colleges and universities essentially to presume the guilt of accused students. The result has been a widespread disregard of such bedrock American principles as the presumption of innocence and the need for fair play.
This book uses hard facts to set the record straight. It explores, among other things, nearly two dozen of the cases since 2010 in which students who in all likelihood would have or have subsequently been found not guilty in a court of law have, in a lopsided process, been hastily and carelessly branded as sex criminals and expelled or otherwise punished by their colleges, often after being tarred and feathered by their fellow students. And it shows why all studentsand, eventually, society as a wholeare harmed when our nation’s universities abandon pursuit of truth and seek instead to accommodate the passions of the mob.
As detailed in the new Epilogue, some encouraging events have transpired since this book was first published in October 2016. A majority of the judicial rulings indozens of lawsuits by male students claiming their schools treated them unfairly and discriminated against them based on their genderhave rebuked the schools for their handling of these cases. And Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called for fairness to accused students and accusers alike, revoked most of theguilt-presumingObama-era policies, and began a protracted rule-making process designed to compel procedural fairness and nondiscrimination.
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About the Author
KC Johnson is a professor of history at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, where he specializes in recent U.S. political, diplomatic, and legal matters. He has written five books, co-written a sixth, and edited or co-edited six additional books. He has commented widely on higher education matters, both for the blog Minding the Campus and in op-eds for The Wall Street Journal , The Washington Post , The New York Daily News , and other publications.
Stuart Taylor Jr. is a freelance writer focusing on legal and policy issues. He is also a National Journal contributing editor. He has coauthored two critically acclaimed books: (with Richard Sander) Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It's Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won't Admit It (2012) and (with KC Johnson) Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case (2007).
Read an Excerpt
In the early morning of February 5, 2012, a student named Alice Stanton met Michael Cheng, her roommate’s boyfriend, in a dormitory common area of Massachusetts’ Amherst College.
After the two started making out, another student remarked that they should “get a room.” Cheng, who was extremely intoxicated, went with Stanton (who later said she had been “tipsy”) back to her room, where Stanton performed oral sex on him. Her roommate, Cheng’s girlfriend, was out of town for the weekend.
As soon as Cheng left her room, a panicked Stanton texted a male friend (her dorm’s resident counselor): “Ohmygod I jus did something so fuckig stupid.” In subsequent texts to this friend, she implied that she had initiated the sexual contact with Cheng and was worried about the fallout. Fellow students who had seen Cheng and her leave the dorm common area, she complained, were “not gonna believe that we left to NOT fuck.” She floated a cover story about their reason for leaving but worried that Cheng was “too drunk to make a good lie out of shit.”
Stanton soon turned her attention to other matters. Earlier that evening, before her encounter with Cheng, she had been flirtatiously texting another male student. Praising his “military trained bod,” she had advised him that she had her room to herself for the weekend “if you wanted to come over and entertain me.” Now she texted him again. He asked her why her texts had stopped for 45 minutes (the time during which she had been with Cheng). She replied that she had been engaged in “sophomore floor bonding,” since “I thought you were a lost cause.”
At 2:30 a.m., the male student texted Stanton to say that he was coming over. Stanton relayed this information to her friend, who responded encouragingly: “Double your pleasure, double your fun.” Shortly after her new guest arrived, Stanton texted the same friend again, complaining, “OK. Why is he just talking to me? . . . Like, hot girl in a slutty dress. Make. Your. Move. YEAH.” She followed up with the results: “Ohmygod action did not happen til 5 in the fucking morning.”
The next morning, Stanton realized her mistake: “I am a shitty friend,” she conceded. After her texting pal promised not to tell anyone about the episode with Cheng, Stanton resolved that “no one can know,” because if anybody knew, her roommate “would literally never speak to me again.” She tried to rationalize her behavior: “We didn’t technicallyyyy have sex. So that’s not quiteeee as bad?” Her friend wasn’t convinced. “Hahahaha. Technically?” When Stanton countered that she wanted the madness to stop, her friendfar more presciently than he ever could have knownresponded, “The madness hasn’t even begun.”
Stanton’s behavior soon was no secret at Amherst, a residential college with fewer than 2,000 students. As a result, Cheng and his girlfriend broke up. And Stanton “lost her group of friends,” as one of the former friends later recalled.
There are countless such casual hookups on college campuses every year. If this one had occurred a few years before, few people would have heard about it. But Alice Stanton’s view of her adventures that night would become swept up in a chain of events that the Obama administration had set in motiona chain that would, almost two years after Stanton’s encounter with Cheng, upend his life.
In an unprecedented initiative, in 2011 the federal government ordered almost all universities to institute revolutionary changes in their disciplinary policies in order to counter what the Obama administration described as an epidemic of rape and other sexual assaults on college campuses. (We henceforth use “sexual assault” as inclusive of rape.) These changes dramatically weakened accused students’ rights to fair proceedings.
As the initial effects of these commands swept across the country, Amherst, like many other colleges, was in the grip of a moral panic about students’ sexual behavior. What would previously have been a regrettable sexual encounter transformed into actionable sexual misconduct. In this frenzy, Michael Cheng would become a victim.
Table of Contents
1 The Foundations of the Frenzy 17
2 Misleading through Statistics 43
3 The Realities of "Rape Culture" 67
4 Denying Due Process 85
5 Media Malpractice 117
6 The Witch-Hunt Mentality 143
7 College Athletes: Myths and Realities 171
8 The Witch Hunt Intensifies 191
8 From Campus to Criminal Law 219
10 A New Generation's Contempt for Civil Liberties 239
What People are Saying About This
“This book is a must read for every feministand everyone elsewho cares about civil liberties. It of course recognizes that campuses must vigorously protect actual and potential sexual assault victims.But it demonstrates vividly and readably that the too-prevalent secretive campus star chambers are the worst of both worlds:innocent students are too easily railroaded out of college, effectively destroying their educational and career opportunities; but actual rapists can at most [only] be expelled, leaving them free to prey on further victims beyond the campus.That is why many advocates of victims’ rights, as well as advocates of the rights of the accused, concur thatthe fairest and most effective way to handle campus sexual assault cases is through the criminal justice system.The book also highlights how the federal Department of Education has abused its power by bypassing lawful rule-making processes and strong-arming campuses to abandon the presumption of innocence and due process rights of students accused of sexual assault and harassment.”
Nadine Strossen, John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law, New York Law School, and Immediate Past President, American Civil Liberties Union (1991–2008)
“In this masterful account, Johnson and Taylor examine in detail how President Obama’s Education Departmentpromulgating regulations beyond its statutory authority, invoking erroneous data, and fanning the false narrative of a ‘rape culture’ on college campuseshas created a regime of kangaroo justice. Male students accused of sexual misconduct are found guilty, and their lives destroyed, by campus panels operating without any semblance of due process and all too frequently on the basis of grossly inadequate information. Your blood will boil as the authors meticulously examine scores of cases where, in the name of political correctness, male students are sacrificed to the mob, with academic leaders happily serving as the hangmen.”
William P. Barr, former Attorney General of the United States (1991–1993)
“A sterling and incisive work, written with passion and wit, that goes to the heart of the most insidious assault on justice and reason ever to afflict the nation’s campuses.”
Dorothy Rabinowitz, Wall Street Journal editorial board member and author, winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary
“For those who love justice and who cherish our daughters and our sons, this is an indispensable book. As the authors demonstrate with compelling evidence and rigorous analysis, civilization’s long evolution of fairness and due process is ending on the very campuses where we educate our future leaders. As Johnson and Taylor argue convincingly, the unspeakable crime of actual rape is better dealt with by law enforcement and the courts than by bigoted campus zealots who care more about symbolism than about truth and actual consequences or by careerists who care more about athletic programs than about the safety of students. Inquisitions and Star Chambers are the order of the day at our colleges and universities, and this stunning book is a desperately needed critique of that catastrophe and a guide to how to end the nightmare of deliberate and dysfunctional injustice.”
Alan CharlesKors, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania