Monday, November 16, 2015

Marquette’s New Rules: Enabling Repression on Speech, Sexual Accusations

This is an era in which college campuses are becoming more and more repressive. First, campus speech is coming under attack, with speech codes so broad that they could be used to silence perfectly legitimate expressions of opinion. Students who express opinions that aren’t politically correct face bullying and harassment, and have to retreat to the anonymity of Yik Yak to avoid repercussions.

Secondly, a moral panic has surrounded sexual violence on campus. Males accused of sexual assault are assumed to be guilty until proven innocent (and sometimes presumed to be guilty even after being proven innocent). Bogus rape claims at places like Columbia and the University of Virginia create a huge national furor. Males accused of sexual assault are deprived of basic due process protections.

Could we expect a supposed “Catholic university” to buck these trends? If the university is Marquette, most certainly not.

At Marquette

Marquette recently released a new “Title IX Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct Policy.” Here is the policy, as captured from Marquette’s website on this past October 15th.

A comparison of the previous policy, captured by Archive.org on September 15th shows a number of changes.

Sexual Violence

The previous policy addresses “1. Non-Consensual Sexual Intercourse (or attempts to commit)” and “2. Non-Consensual Sexual Contact (or attempts to commit).” Then the issue is: How is “consent” defined.

The policy is as follows:
Consent is the equal approval, given freely, willingly and knowingly of each participant to desired sexual involvement. Consent is an affirmative, conscious decision – indicated clearly by words or actions – to engage in mutually accepted sexual contact. A person compelled to engage in sexual contact by force, threat of force, or coercion has not consented to contact. Lack of mutual consent is the crucial factor in any sexual assault. Consent CANNOT be given if a person’s ability to resist or consent is impaired because of a mental or physical condition or is there is incapacitation due to drugs or alcohol or if there is a significant age or perceived power differential. Providing alcohol or drugs to facilitate sexual activity is a violation of this policy. Use of alcohol or other drugs will never function to excuse behavior that violates this policy.

A person may not consent if s/he is:
  • unconscious
  • frightened
  • physically or psychologically pressured or forced
  • intimidated
  • impaired because of a psychological condition
  • intoxicated by use of drugs or alcohol
Most of this is just fine, although we note a couple of problems. The policy seems to embrace the questionable “affirmative consent” standard, but it makes clear that “actions” an be construed to imply consent.

If a girl goes up to a guy’s apartment, takes off her clothes and gets in bed with him, that pretty clearly means “consent” even if she never says “we can have sex.”

Of course, the traditional rule was different. Consent could be implicit. A guy was allowed to try to “steal a kiss.” He could kiss a girl without asking, but was expected to move slowly enough such that she could avoid it if she wanted to. Similar rules applied to other forms of sexual contact.

The “psychologically pressured” language is equally suspect. A lot of women have been “pressured” into having sex. A guy who would pressure a woman to have sex is not a gentleman, but if he uses no force or threat of force (and she is not incapacitated) , he’s not a rapist.

In the real world of sex and dating, pretty much the same rules apply today. A woman who lets a guy kiss her (or have sex with her) is not going to run to campus authorities and accuse him of assault usually. But if the relationship turns sour, or she finds the experience unsatisfactory and convinces herself she really didn’t want to do it, the guy could be in trouble. Something like this appears to have happened to Mattress Girl at Columbia.

The New Code

What does the new code say?
In order for individuals to engage in sexual activity of any type with each other, there must be clear, knowing and voluntary consent prior to and during sexual activity. Consent is the voluntary, clear, actively given, positive agreement between the participants to engage in a specific sexual act or activity. Previous relationships or consent does not imply consent to future sexual activity. Consent can be withdrawn at any time once given, so long as that withdrawal is clearly communicated.
What is missing? The language that says that consent can be “indicated by actions.” Thus, a girl quite voluntarily getting into bed with a guy does not meet the standard for “consent.” This opens the door for the prosecution of any guy who had sex that was consensual, but not verbally agreed to.

Harassment

We have blogged on Marquette’s absurd and repressive “harassment training” which was imposed on all employees and staff in the fall of 2014.

The previous code defined harassment first in terms of quid pro quo harassment (“you’ll get something of you submit to my advances”) and then went on to add:
. . . conduct [that] is sufficiently severe and pervasive so as to alter the conditions of, or have the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with, an individual’s academic performance or work by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational, residential, or working environment.
That’s not very precise, but on its face it seems reasonable.

The new code deals (likewise) with quid pro quo harassment, and adds things that might also reasonably be called “harassment” such as “Epithets, slurs, negative stereotyping, or threatening, intimidating, or hostile acts.” But then it goes into dangerous territory, adding:
Placing on walls, bulletin boards, email, social networking websites, or elsewhere on the University’s premises graphic material that shows hostility or aversion to an individual or group (as listed above) because of an individual’s race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, sex, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, predisposing genetic characteristic, or military status or any other characteristics protected by this Policy and/or law, under any of the circumstances described in this section.
(“Listed above” are the same groups listed in this paragraph.)

This, obviously, includes a lot of things that would be protected by the First Amendment in a public university. But often such expressions involve legitimate discussion at any university.

Social Networking Sites

Extending the policy to social networking sites is a major expansion.  It’s one thing if somebody puts up an anti-Muslim or anti-gay poster in a workplace, where all employees are necessarily exposed to it.  But nobody has to visit Facebook or Twitter, and if they do, they get to pick whose posts they see.  This policy means that campus authoritarians can search around social networking sites looking for statements they find “offensive” and then use them to get students in trouble.  

Can one criticize Islam for its treatment of women? That shows an “aversion” to a “group” on the basis of religion. And indeed criticism of Islam (and Baltimore rioters) recently got a student at Texas Christian University suspended for his posts on Twitter and Facebook.

Suppose somebody says of black people:
Their entire culture just isn’t conducive to a life of success. It just isn’t. The outfits. The attitudes. The behavior.
This statement was on a list of posts on Yik Yak that a bunch of feminist and “civil rights” organizations believed should be punished.

 What about a statement like:
Call me a preppy white kid again and I’ll protest you black people for racial profiling.
This appeared on a list of Yik Yak posts in the wake of a demonstration by the Coalition of and for Students of Color at Marquette University blocking traffic on Wisconsin Avenue. The person who compiled the posts (Zoe Del Colle) called them “racist.” (Facebook login required to see the page.)

Thus the language Marquette has adopted could easily be used to punish students who make legitimate (but politically incorrect) comments on public issues. Sometimes groups defined by race, religion, or such can legitimately be criticized.

And one can’t imagine anybody on a college campus getting into trouble for saying that conservative Christians are “bigoted” or that whites are “blinded by their white privilege.”

When people start punishing speech, they never ever do it in a viewpoint neutral way. They only do it to shut up expression they don’t like.

Current Marquette Administration

The nature of Marquette’s current administration engenders no confidence that free expression will be respected on campus, since it is in full “pander” mode toward the student activists.

Marquette Wire, for example, reports on a demonstration on campus last Thursday in sympathy with University of Missouri demonstrators:
Those that gathered were of various races and included faculty, staff, students and Milwaukee community members. University President Michael Lovell, Provost Daniel Myers and the mother of Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed black man who was killed by a white Milwaukee Police Officer, were also in attendance.

Lovell said he went to show support for the students and community. Myers added it was a proud moment to be a part of Marquette.
In another recent meeting, administration officials seemed apologetic for painting over a mural of black militant terrorist and murderer Assata Shakur.

Provost Myers, faced with a demand that Marquette apologize for painting over the mural said:
I want to change things. I came here to change things. I am really committed to this.
Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion William Welburn likewise pandered. According to Marquette Wire:
“I believe very strongly that we are not going to have processes like this again, especially when it comes to issues of how this campus handles diversity and inclusion,” Welburn said. “Whatever we do moving forward, we have to think about women, women of color, African-American women specifically because of this incident. We have to think about the damage.”
Marquette’s administration seems no more willing to stand up to activist bullies than other university administrations.

It’s an open question how much of this is the result of politically correct attitudes on the part of administrators, and how much is due to a timid desire to defuse trouble coming from the activists.

Either way, Marquette is becoming a more and more oppressive place. Not only is any notion of “Catholic identity” junked when it contradicts political correctness, secular notions of free expression are pushed aside too.

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