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The Tyranny of Hurt Feelings

The Tyranny of Hurt Feelings

By Mona Charen - May 20, 2011

Call it testosterone poisoning: A group of fraternity pledges at Yale, blindfolded and led in a line, each with his hands on the shoulders of the boy in front of him (the Yalie bunny hop?), were paraded in front of the Women's Center. There they shouted vile and puerile slogans including "No means yes, yes means anal" and "My name is Jack, I'm a necrophiliac, I f--- dead women."

"It makes you want to slap those kids," laments Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Idiotic behavior like that of Delta Kappa Epsilon makes his job -- defending free speech and common sense in the Orwellian universe of the American academy -- that much more difficult.

A group of Yale women and alumnae have filed a Title IX complaint against the university, prompting the self-described "lonely civil libertarian feminist," Wendy Kaminer, to lament that women are acting like helpless females.

"What accounts," she asks in The Atlantic, "for such feminine timidity, this instinctive unwillingness or inability to talk or taunt back, without seeking the protection of university or government bureaucrats?"

But the bureaucrats are hard at work -- even if it means compromising the due process rights of the accused. In fact, the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education has pretty well mandated that the rights of the accused be downgraded.

In a "Dear Colleague" letter dated April 4, 2011, the Office for Civil Rights informed all recipients of federal funds that when adjudicating accusations of sexual harassment or sexual violence (the two are constantly conflated, as if the latter were merely a more extreme form of the former), universities must reduce the burden of proof from "clear and convincing" evidence to "preponderance of the evidence," or 50.01 percent likelihood that the offense took place.

American law has traditionally afforded stricter standards of proof when the stakes for the accused are high. In criminal cases, the standard is "beyond a reasonable doubt." The OCR claims -- bizarrely -- that sexual harassment cases are like claims for money damages. Hardly. The stakes for the accused in a campus disciplinary hearing concerning sexual harassment or sexual violence could scarcely be higher. The student's reputation, education, and even liberty are at risk.

Throughout the letter, as Kaminer notes, the Obama administration, through the OCR, assumes the guilt of the accused, just as the Duke faculty presumed the guilt of the lacrosse players. No concern is spared for the possibly falsely accused student.

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Copyright 2011, Creators Syndicate Inc.

Mona Charen

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