Bob Goodlatte Supports Another Hateful (and Unconstitutional) Policy

Government officials, stop freaking hating people!  Start representing us—thoughtfully, kindly, constitutionally.

The text of the executive order of the “president” is here, with the helpful annotated version done by The New York Times here.  The evocation of 9/11 and terrorism at the beginning of the text is deeply problematic because, of course, it links individuals and families simply seeking better lives to terrorism and prioritizes Christians over Muslims.  The latter is a clear violation of the Constitution of the United States of America. Thank goodness many of the nation’s lawyers are on this.

The annotated version of the executive order, written by Adam Liptak of The New York Times, highlights the following problematic issues: (1) the invocation of 9/11; (2) going against the nation’s founders’ belief in immigration; (3) the insistence that non-U.S. citizens support the Constitution; (4) the overreach of executive power; (5) targeting seven specific nations; (6) the possible expansion of the list of countries barred; (7) the prohibition on the entrance of all refugees, but with greater consideration given to Christian individuals than to Muslim individuals; (8) expansion on the ban of Syrian refugees.  This is not only the expression of profound Islamophobia, but also a dangerous break with the Constitution and with diplomatic relationships developed over many years.

In this The Washington Post piece, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) states: “The primary duty of the federal government is to keep Americans safe. Today, President Trump has begun to fulfill this responsibility by taking a number of critical steps within his authority to strengthen national security and the integrity of our nation’s immigration system.”  (Goodlatte also proudly touts this statement on his own website.)

Let’s parse this hypernationalist, Islamophobic, state surveillance rhetoric.  The first item listed in the U.S. Constitution is that “We the People” will establish Justice.  Separating people by religion (or by national origin, race, sex, gender, parental status, etc.) and then limiting rights or liberties is antithetical to our constitutional tenets of fairness and justice.  And so the question is, which Americans does Goodlatte think he is keeping safe?  This racist, paternalistic language has got to go.

As for this “responsibility” of the “president” “within his authority,” we will rely on lawyers and legal scholars to knock down this ban as a dangerous overreach of executive authority.

Goodlatte links national security to immigration, but doesn’t acknowledge that the United States has experienced terrorist attacks from “homegrown” (right here in apple-pie USA) terrorists.  This CNN piece points out, too, that there have been, count ‘em, ZERO attacks committed by refugees in the United States.  Goodlatte also fails to comment that, since 9/11, not one terrorist attack on U.S. soil has been carried out by anyone from the seven countries listed in the ban (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen).  Goodlatte neglects to say that the “president” and his family also have no business dealings in these seven countries and therefore have protected their own businesses from retribution.

That is a lot left unsaid.  It’s time for Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary, to step up, state the facts, and uphold our nation’s Constitution.

Goodlatte—qué mala leche.

 

 

 

 

Women March

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Yes, I marched.  How could I not march?  As a long-time Chicana activist said during her visit to our university, “How could I not go where a million women plan to be?”  There were detractors of the march—both valid (representation of women of color and the history of this in feminist movement[s]; see this National Public Radio piece here; Zeba Blay’s “mixed emotions” about the march in The Huffington Post) and invalid (Trump’s self-defensive criticism of the march via Twitter; reported here by PBS). But there is no denying that a seven-continent protest of the new president, his managerial shortcomings, and his inhumane policy proposals and hires makes an enormous (go ahead and say “uge”; I know you’re thinking it) statement.  This multi-million-person statement is important for the start of this regime and for the annals of history.  As this new person in charge charges through, hiring inept people and signing devastating orders, we have protested, and we have done so en masse.

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My husband, our two children, and I joined a group from our small town on the trip to Washington, D.C.  Several buses carried others from our town, thus revealing strong numbers from our area and signaling that people were definitely going to show up.  On our bus there were women and men, adults and children, black, brown, and white people, English and Spanish speakers (and speakers of several other languages), people born in our rural area, in other parts of the United States, and in other countries.  Poster messages ranged from embracing diversity, to promoting peace, to expressing frustration and/or fierceness, to citing great feminist thinkers, such as Angela Davis and Audre Lorde.  Many people sported pussy hats—in the standard pink, but also in black and rainbow.  The overriding political issue seemed to be profound concern about the president’s fitness for office, with each person having her or his “subthemes” or issues in which they were well versed, including Black Lives Matter, the environment, Planned Parenthood, LGBTQ rights, and immigration policy.
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I loved the sheer numbers at the march and its sister marches, the diversity of issues covered, the humor and compassion displayed in so many of the protest signs, the peacefulness of the protest, and the sense that the D.C. march layered over—step by step of every single inch of the packed protest route—the inaugural activities of the day before.  A lot of people said they went to the march for their daughters.  I went for me, my partner, both our children, and for the people around me whose futures are less secure under this regime.

I went to the march because I feel deep shame for my country and a profound worry about its/our future.  I needed to join a group who would make a loud and visible statement about what we have done, whom we have elected, and why it’s all wrong.  I wanted people in other nations and my own compatriotas to know that a gigantic sector of the United States disagrees with every move the new president is making.  My daughter wore the pussy hat a friend so kindly made for me.  I see the pussy hat movement as representing a stage in feminism—an early “girl power” stage that is important for many people, and likely for many young girls, boys, and people of the gender of their choice.  The hats also mark the tradition of women’s crafts and the solidarity in creating beautiful works and wearing them with a sense of purpose. I sense myself in a different stage in which I appreciate the expression of girl power but long for a more nuanced interpretation of women’s (and gender’s, in general) place in the world.  As a long-time feminist, I recognize that my views and political platforms must evolve according to analyses of others’ writings and according to emerging needs of those around me.  I work often in a Latinx community and therefore practice a feminism that is necessarily crisscrossed by questions of citizenship, race, class, and language.  But I know as a feminist who is white that this intersectionality has to be a deliberate choice every single day because it is too easy to luxuriate in white privilege.  This is why I understood the “Fuck White Feminism” sign held by someone two steps away from me at the march.  (Check out this Gender Shrapnel blog post that takes issue with the term “white feminism,” but not with the problems of it.)

I loved hearing America Ferrera, Gloria Steinem, Ashley Judd, Janelle Monáe, Sophie Cruz, and Angela Davis speak.  At times it was hard to follow who was speaking and what they were saying because the business of being in a jam-packed crowd, especially with children, was challenging.  One thing I heard before the crowds pinned us in were the words of Charlie Brotman, the man who has been an inauguration announcer since Eisenhower but was eschewed by the Trump crew.  I was miffed by his tin-eared decision to label the Women’s March crowd “Charlie’s Angels,” and I called out that he should get over himself and stop colonizing women.  Van Jones was generally great as a “private in the Love Army.”  Nevertheless, I thought I heard him mention men’s need to “protect our women” and took issue with the implication of women’s weakness and his use of the possessive.  These were minor issues in the grand scheme of things.

In his New York Times opinion piece of January 24, 2017, David Brooks wrote:  “Without the discipline of party politics, social movements devolve into mere feeling, especially in our age of expressive individualism. People march and feel good and think they have accomplished something. They have a social experience with a lot of people and fool themselves into thinking they are members of a coherent and demanding community. Such movements descend to the language of mass therapy.”  Oh, Mr. Brooks, can you not be a little more nuanced?  Party politics is part and parcel of social movements, and it should be the case that, in turn, social movements are a part of party politics.  Marching in Washington, D.C., and all around the world does accomplish something, did accomplish something.  I don’t know anyone from the march who is not now more engaged in local, state, and national political processes than they were before the march.  This includes the children.  If “mass therapy” means that half a million people gathered on a two-mile stretch of the nation’s capital to express vociferous discontent with the incapable person we’ve elected president and then harnessed that group feeling to become politically active, then go ahead and use the patronizing term.

David Brooks also fawns all over Mark Lilla’s Nov. 18th (2016) op-ed in The New York Times, claiming that, “Times readers loved that piece and it vaulted to the top of the most-read charts.”  I was certainly a Times reader who read the piece, but I thought it dripped in white privilege and expressed a misbegotten nostalgia for when “politics” was only for white men.  (See the Gender Shrapnel blog response to Lilla’s piece here.)  Brooks concludes that the “anti-Trump forces” need to “offer a better nationalism, with diversity cohering around a central mission, building a nation that balances the dynamism of capitalism with biblical morality.”  Methinks Brooks doesn’t get that many March participants don’t seek “a better nationalism,” and, if they do, it certainly need not hearken back to capitalist and Christian tropes that got Trump elected to begin with.

In the end, I marched because we elected a megalomaniac who continues to erode the constitutional rights of many people in the United States. I couldn’t stand for it—I had to march.

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(“Hear Our Voice” by Liza Donovan; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/womens-march-poster-art_us_5873c531e4b02b5f858a2b1d)

 

Bob Goodlatte Performs in Theatre of the Absurd

Yesterday I attended a performance of the Theatre of the Absurd (see Martin Esslin’s piece on the Theatre of the Absurd here).  It was an “open session” meeting sponsored by Congressman Bob Goodlatte and run by one of his district staff members.  If you’ve ever seen or read Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot or Eugène Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, you’ll be familiar with the scene I offer here.

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CAST

Staff member of a government representative

16 concerned citizens

1 unconcerned citizen

Ghost of a government representative

A little kitchen in the county offices of a town in rural Virginia.  Long, plastic tables are placed in a rectangle, with folding chairs around them.  Flickering fluorescent lights dot the scene, and in the background are sounds of people clicking on computers, answering phones, etc., in neighboring offices.  The large, plain clock in the room ticks towards 8:59 a.m.

STAFF MEMBER (standing, holding a stack of folders and mail, speaks to one concerned citizen):  Are you here as part of the group?

CONCERNED CITIZEN #1:  What group?

STAFF MEMBER:  You know, the group.

CONCERNED CITIZEN #1:  Ummm…  I’m here as a concerned citizen for the open door session sponsored by our district’s congressman.

STAFF MEMBER (still standing, directing herself to Concerned Citizens #’s 2, 3, and 4):  Are you here as part of the group?

CONCERNED CITIZEN #2:  What group?

STAFF MEMBER (glancing around nervously, gradually placing her things on the table):  You know, the group.

CONCERNED CITIZEN #3:  Well, I’m here just as a citizen concerned about the congressman’s policy issues.

As the clock shows the 9 o’clock hour, eight more concerned citizens arrive.  Each is asked if she or he is there as part of a group.  Each looks bewildered and responds, “no” and sits down at the tables.

STAFF MEMBER (passing around a pad of paper and pen):  You need to know that this session is reserved for individual cases from individual citizens.  I’m passing around paper and a pen.  Sign your full name, address, and e-mail, and I’ll share this with the congressman.

(Directs herself to entering Concerned Citizen #13)

Are you here as part of the group?

(Concerned Citizen #13 looks around, recognizes no one among the seated individuals, shakes his head.)

CONCERNED CITIZEN #13:  Umm, no, umm, what do you mean ‘part of the group?’

STAFF MEMBER:  You need to know that this session is reserved for individual cases from individual citizens.

CONCERNED CITIZEN #7:  Why do you keep saying that?  Isn’t this an open door session sponsored by the congressman?

STAFF MEMBER:  Yes, but you need to know that this session is reserved for individual cases from individual citizens.  Now, if people have individual comments they would like me to relay to the congressman, they can raise their hands.

(Concerned Citizen #1 raises his hand.)

STAFF MEMBER (looks at Concerned Citizen #1):  Sir, I believe we’ve already heard enough from you.

CONCERNED CITIZEN #1:  But I haven’t even…

STAFF MEMBER (cutting off Concerned Citizen #1 and signaling to Concerned Citizen #6):  State your name.

CONCERNED CITIZEN #6:  Jane.  I’m here to talk about the Affordable Care Act.  I’m concerned that proposed changes sponsored by the congressman’s party will affect my son’s coverage.

(Staff Member scribbles on her pad of paper.)

CONCERNED CITIZEN #10:  I’m here for the same issue.  I am concerned about…

(Concerned Citizens #14 and 15 enter.)

STAFF MEMBER:  Are you here as part of the group?

(Bewildered looks from Concerned Citizens #14 and 15.)

CONCERNED CITIZEN #15:  Uh, what do you mean?  We’re here to express concerns about our congressman and the ethics office.

STAFF MEMBER:  So this isn’t an individual case?

CONCERNED CITIZEN #14:  Well, I’m not sure what you mean.  It is individual in that I individually am concerned about how the congressman is trying to gut the ethics office.

STAFF MEMBER:  Take a seat.

(Concerned Citizen #10 picks up train of thought from before)

CONCERNED CITIZEN #10:  …how changes in the ACA will affect 18,000,000 people in the United States, 30,000 of whom are here in Virginia.  I’m also concerned about the billions it will cost to enact these changes.

STAFF MEMBER:  I’m only here to hear individual concerns.

(Five other concerned citizens express extemporaneous individual concerns about the ACA.  They all speak at the same time.)

(Concerned Citizen #16 enters.)

STAFF MEMBER (sighing heavily):  Are you here as part of the group?

CONCERNED CITIZEN #16:  What do you mean?  I’m just here for the open door session sponsored by our congressman.

STAFF MEMBER:  Well, I have to take care of the case load.

(Bewildered look from Concerned Citizen #16.  Exasperated looks on the faces of other concerned citizens.)

CONCERNED CITIZEN #8:  If we wanted to speak directly with the congressman, how would we do so?

STAFF MEMBER:  Well, you can use his website…

(Snickers in the crowd.  One loud whisper that the website only seeks donations for the other political party.)

…or work through me.

(Audible groans from the crowd.)

CONCERNED CITIZEN #9:  Is it not possible to have a town hall meeting with the congressman?

STAFF MEMBER:  No, no, of course not.  It is the 21st century.  You understand the security concerns.

(Unconcerned Citizen enters the room and pulls up a chair next to Staff Member.)

STAFF MEMBER:  Hi, how’re you doing?  Are you here for inauguration tickets?

UNCONCERNED CITIZEN:  That’s right.

STAFF MEMBER:  Here you go.  Enjoy!

The plain clock strikes 10:00.  The ghost of the government representative smiles and nods at Unconcerned Citizen.

Lights out.  Curtain.

**********

You get the picture, right?

Government is not working for the people when its elected officials bask in partisan praise, ignore real concerns offered by individuals and groups, and gerrymander the voting districts.   The staff member here is just following orders—box them out (concerned citizens) and protect me (big man in charge).  This theatre of the absurd seems all too familiar.  Keep an eye on GoodlatteWatch and DearBob.  We have to insist that these perennially elected, gerrymandered fat cats start to lose some elections so that we can elect a real representative who will work for—and with—the people.

Overtly Political

We are celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., and watching as Inauguration Day looms.  Therefore, it seems frivolous to write about anything but our protection against violence, bigotry, self-interest, and willful ignorance.  Our time, money, words, and ink need to go towards preventing “making America great again.”  If “great” means racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, and dangerously selfish, then let’s move in a different direction.

The election season and the last two months tell us that the president-elect intends much of what he promised.  He continues to berate the so-called fourth estate for taking him to task, even though they have done so minimally.  He is naming individuals to his cabinet whose records speak to the exact opposite of what the cabinet post should entail.  He demonstrates to the world that the United States will keep taking, taking, taking from the environment and giving back nothing.  He will tank our public education system, already so in need of real reform and smart support.  He will continue to fan the flames of sexist, racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic groups who threaten the lives and safety of many who live in the United States.  He will use money intended for our nation for his own personal gain.

In short, this is some dangerous and tragic bullshit.  Many of us know it, and many of us are fighting it.  I am deeply grateful for the organizations (e.g. the tribes and supporters still standing together at Standing Rock, ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood) and the individuals (people whom I know and don’t know) who are not giving up and who are actively contributing to the research and protest necessary to avoid grave regression in our nation.  Thank you.

In the meantime, we have formed a group of small-time activists, relative rookies, who are working to stem the tide of destruction.  It has been interesting to see friends from faraway working on similar initiatives.  Our group continues to learn from national, regional, and local organizations, such as Wall-of-Us, MoveOn, Black Lives Matter, National Organization for Women, the Democratic Latino Organization of Virginia, Indivisible, etc.

Our group is 50 Ways-Rockbridge, and here is our information:

50 Ways-Rockbridge is a group of concerned citizens from Rockbridge County, Virginia, working together to research, educate, and act on major political issues that affect all of the 50 United States, especially Virginia and our local area.  Our guiding principles are inclusion and fairness.

50 WAYS participants work on one or more of these seven main issues*:

  1. President-elect’s business conflicts of interest
  2. Health Care
  3. Civil liberties / 1st Amendment
  4. Voting districts
  5. Climate change
  6. Consumer protection
  7. Immigrant rights and advocacy

*The group also encourages activism on other major issues.

As a 50 WAYS participant, you can choose to be:

Active: phone calls/e-mails to officials or institutions about issues, as directed by an Issues Coordinator

Quite active: attend a 50 Ways meeting every three weeks, and phone calls/e-mails to officials or institutions

Very active: Choose to oversee an issues group, i.e., be an Issues Coordinator, and all of the above.

Please feel free to share this information.  Let’s keep up this work! https://50waysrockbridge.wordpress.com/

A Couple of Feminists Watch Sports on TV

Penn State versus USC in the big Rose Bowl match-up.  Lots of hype, millions of viewers, tons of commercials, four hours of television time.  I tune in to the second quarter with my husband, who is a long-time Penn State fan, even through the scandal of the Paterno-Sandusky era.  He’s been watching since the beginning of the game.  I sit down to do a little work while I watch.  It’s not surprising to see the frequent shots of both teams’ cheerleaders.  But I soon tire of the camera angles that always catch them from below.  I don’t want to be up their skirts, but I have no choice.  I don’t really want to see cheerleaders at all, but the camera takes me and the other millions of viewers right up their skirts.  When the camera view returns to the field, it uses a variety of angles—panoramic, to get the whole sense of the game, lateral view, to see how close to a first down the offensive team is, and close-up, to peer right into the quarterback’s tense and strategizing face.  The camera is not taking me up or into the pants of the players, and I’m grateful for that.  Before long, though, it will take the other viewers and me right back up the cheerleaders’ skirts.

Commercial breaks bring the predictable sacrifices to the male gaze—chips and dip offered by scantily clad blond women, beer, razors that make you more manly and improve your chances of getting laid, beer, mothers who nag at you to eat soup and buy a better razor, beer.  You get the picture.  The advertisements reinforce the heteronormative, male-centered reign of the program we’re watching.  If we all thought more about these messages, we might get a good laugh or cry at the limited roles we’re told are available to us, including to the young viewers who absorb these messages emitted from their many screens.

The National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) website underscores these seven “core values”:

  • The collegiate model of athletics in which students participate as an avocation, balancing their academic, social and athletics experiences.
  • The highest levels of integrity and sportsmanship.
  • The pursuit of excellence in both academics and athletics.
  • The supporting role that intercollegiate athletics plays in the higher education mission and in enhancing the sense of community and strengthening the identity of member institutions.
  • An inclusive culture that fosters equitable participation for student-athletes and career opportunities for coaches and administrators from diverse backgrounds.
  • Respect for institutional autonomy and philosophical differences.
  • Presidential leadership of intercollegiate athletics at the campus, conference and national levels.

These core values resonate well, especially for those of us in higher education, in part because they parallel many college and university mission statements.  Nevertheless, an afternoon of watching NCAA men’s sports teams compete for big money and visibility on national television reveals the enormous gap between mission and practice.  In this space is hypocrisy.

Serena Williams was quoted in The Washington Post (December 26, 2016) as saying, “Women make up so much of this world, and, yeah, if I were a man, I would have 100 percent been considered the greatest ever a long time ago.”  In the open letter cited in the article, Williams takes issues with being called “one of the world’s greatest female athletes, saying that LeBron, Tiger, and Federer aren’t called “one of the world’s best male athletes.” The more we acknowledge greatness in our women sports heroes (and there are many), the more we will realize both how sexist the coverage of men’s sports is and how lacking the coverage of women’s sports is.

As a sports fan and feminist, pretty soon I’m going to have to stop watching the sports events offered on TV.  (Aren’t I a tough guy, as if my refusal to watch might make a difference.)  If men’s sports were geared more towards discerning viewers, even just every so often, I’d be delighted.  If it weren’t so damned hard to find coverage of women’s soccer, field hockey, swimming, basketball, lacrosse, and track and field, I’d be delighted.

To make change happen, we can follow the Women’s Sports Foundation, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and Title IX Athletics information, boycott products sold through sexist ads and programs, and actively support girls’ and women’s sports.

Campus Sexual Assault

2017.  It’s a brand new year, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t hauled the major problems of 2016 across the finish line and back to the start.

As we all know, the problem of sexual assault on college and university campuses has been featured in the news for several years now.  In the Gender Shrapnel Blog, I’ve written before about rape (Nov. 7, 2016), and administrative responses to the sexual harassment—sexual violence continuum (Oct. 31, 2016).  I’ve also discussed the Fox News sexual harassment issues as indications of profound problems of sexual entitlement and violence in our media and linked to the government officials who will take office in a few short weeks (Sept. 19, 2016).  Today I want to analyze The New York Times’s coverage of a rape case at Stanford University in an article published on December 29, 2016.

While you might be assuming that the article is about the Brock Turner case, it is not.  (Of course, the cases are linked through Stanford’s obvious predilection for protecting the athletes in these two cases, even in the face of copious evidence that indicates that these men committed felonies.)  The December 29th article covers the adjudication of the report of rape by a Stanford University sophomore, who has alleged that a member of the football team raped her after a fraternity party back in 2015.  Joe Drape and Marc Tracy, authors of the article, write, “A New York Times examination of the Stanford case concerning the football player, based in part on a review of more than 100 pages of documents from Stanford’s proceedings, illuminates the school’s struggles and pitfalls in adjudicating these kinds of cases.”  The authors have done due diligence and report carefully on Stanford’s various moves to decide the case and the challenges for all colleges and universities to hear these nuanced cases, make fair decisions, and then mete out (if necessary) just consequences.

I take issue with the coverage of this story not because the authors have treated it unfairly, but because editors have made inappropriate decisions about the placement of the story and its focus on college football, rather than on the alleged crime committed against a college sophomore and the faulty proceedings surrounding it.

The article, titled “A Majority Agreed She Was Raped by a Stanford Football Player.  That Wasn’t Enough,” appears in the “College Football” section of the day’s paper (online).  I was struck by the frivolous placement of such a serious news item.  While I believe that we must pay serious attention to sexual violence that takes place in “fraternal” contexts (e.g. fraternities, men’s athletics teams, the military), I don’t believe these stories should necessarily be appearing on the sports pages of major newspapers.  The decision to place the story in the “College Football” section means that the text is also accompanied by a bright, sun-filled photo of the team preparing to play a game back in September and another photo of Stanford University football helmets with the caption, “The Stanford team will face North Carolina in the Sun Bowl on Friday.”  Is the article not about the major missteps of Stanford University administrators in this case (and with mention of the Brock Turner case as well)?  If so, then why is the piece also advertising the football team’s participation in the Sun Bowl?  Jesus, people, can we not do better?  If you’re the unnamed victim, you read this piece knowing the takeaway is that readers mustn’t forget to tune into the prestigious bowl game.

Despite these questionable editorial decisions, the article does scrutinize Stanford’s adjudication processes.  The public outrage surrounding Stanford’s protection of Brock Turner and the subsequent light sentence from the Stanford-alum judge serve as an appropriate backdrop to this other story, in which the chairwoman of Stanford’s sexual assault advisory committee is quoted as having said, “and having three people decide something by a preponderance of the evidence seemed to us the appropriate way of deciding whether a life-altering sanction should be imposed on somebody for his or her behavior.”

Again, just as in the Brock Turner case, the desire to focus on the effects of sanctions on the life course and protected future of an individual found likely to have committed a felony reinforces the supposed “manifest destiny” of our protected male athletes.  It also fully ignores how the victim’s life has already been altered, not only by the violent crime itself, but also by the university’s desire to protect the accused and its own reputation.  To this point, Drape and Tracy write, “Still, very few sexual assault cases that have gone through the university’s internal process in recent years have led to any significant punishment for the accused, a fact that Stanford attributes to a rigorous but fair standard to guard against wrongful judgments. Advocates for sexual assault survivors consider it a sign of a system stacked against victims.”  The person found guilty by a majority of persons on two different university panels plays in the bowl game, while the person who was raped leaves the university in order to avoid contact with the perpetrator.  Having to live with this unjust institutional calculus and a necessary self-exile is what I would call “life-altering.”

Various Stanford University faculty members have made heroic efforts to have the administration understand the inherent injustice in their adjudication systems.  The article from The New York Times cites this open letter, written by five Stanford University professors in late 2015 to the provost.   Another troublesome element of the case is the report that the accused “had been ‘reassured’ by Stanford’s Title IX investigator that ‘situations like these more times than not result in nothing,’ and that a lawyer for the Associated Students of Stanford University had reviewed his response and advised some changes, ‘but mostly began to sympathize with me,’ and said that ‘what I was going through was unfair.’”  There are enough puzzle pieces here to indicate the overall picture from Stanford—protecting the accused means protecting the university, and so protect the accused they will do.

In fact, in a separate story about Stanford, this one titled “Ex-Stanford professor:  I was pushed out after reporting sexual harassment” (The Guardian, December 19, 2016), an individual from Stanford, Tammy Frisby, who testified about sexual harassment in her department, stated:  “’It’s a culture of intimidation where the university very clearly wants to send a message to women that you should not speak up or we will go after you,’ she said.  ‘When the university comes to do an HR investigation, they aren’t on your side.  The university is on the university’s side.’”

Just as in these Stanford cases, victims most often are not seeking monetary solutions.  They are seeking removal of a criminal from their immediate surroundings, that is, from the spaces in which they need to move in order to work, study, research, graduate.  Nevertheless, the university, the third, conveniently invisible party in all of these “he said-she said” cases, views the request for protection as a legal threat and then circles the wagons, thus protecting itself first and, by default, the perpetrator second.

We know that colleges and universities are lucrative businesses (insane endowments; NCAA television contracts; bookstore sales; etc.).  In order to understand the still-fraught Title IX machinations on our campuses, we need to understand the calculations that our administrations and general counsels are making.  I imagine a giant Excel spreadsheet telling them which outcome brings greater potential financial losses.   The spreadsheet seems magically to point to the advantage of eliminating the “thin-skinned plaintiff” and protecting the felon.  And, of course, this goes to our United States legal system, which is unable to function away from the almighty dollar.