Now available: “Sentence First, Verdict Afterward”

Commentary has un-paywalled my July article on the feds’ “blueprint” for how colleges and universities must deal with charges of sexual misconduct. I explain why despite a retreat to a seemingly less extreme interpretation of the law, the dangers remain that the Department of Education and Department of Justice will arm-twist academic institutions into stacked disciplinary methods and new curbs on speech. Read it here (and also consider subscribing to Commentary, gates aside). Earlier here, here, etc.

Two points worth noting: first, while the Obama administration has pushed the new plan hard, the wider trend of gradually stepped-up federal supervision over university life has been going on for decades under Republican and Democratic administrations alike. There is not much resistance: university officials and organized professors themselves are relatively half-hearted about sticking up for their own institutional autonomy. Indeed, the federal prescriptions represent in some ways a consolidation of power by already-powerful elements within the academy, as opposed to a perceived hostile takeover from the outside. In the same July issue of Commentary, Philip Hamburger has an excellent article outlining how university researchers have for decades now tamely submitted to federally prescribed controls — overseen by so-called IRBs, or institutional review boards — over such relatively innocuous forms of “human-subjects research” as interviewing politicians and observing passersby in public places. In 2007, David Hyman wrote for Cato’s Regulation magazine on “The Pathologies of Institutional Review Boards.”

P.S. Much more on IRBs from George Mason’s Zachary Schrag (book, another interview, more, blog).


  • This same idea is now being pushed into the military. Dishonorable Discharge first then Courts-martial. While sexual abuse is serious, proponents have mischaracterized the 26,000 number. The number is based on a statistical extension of a survey. The survey included not just physical abuse but what would be considered harassment in the civilian world. Before people get on their high horse, as a Company Commander, I court-martialed a guy for indecent assault (indecent touching). The media and PC folks have created the myth that all officers look the other way. The next step will be, excuse the phrase: a”witch” hunt. Where the PC folks will find a few folks to hang based on their ideas.

  • Ed,
    I was written up for sexual misconduct in the Navy in 1984. I was fortunate enough to have a CO who took care of his people and the charge was thrown out at Mast. There was no “looking the other way”, because the charge was BS and he recognized it as so. My “crime” was opening the door for a female LT with an arm load of packages at the Exchange.
    When I went to college in 2003 it amazed me when we were told during orientation what constituted violations of their “Code of Ethics”. I was given a warning for wearing a golf shirt with an American Legion emblem over the pocket. I was told that it’s “military connotations” might make another student feel uncomfortable. I don’t even want to start on the list of things that were considered a sexual violation. Let’s just say that a woman could have a man thrown off campus in a millisecond, while it was impossible to bring a complaint against a woman. I wouldn’t go back on a college campus as a student at gun point.

  • Jim, I feel for you. One duty station (1979) the Post Provost was relieved because he didn’t “aggressively” pursue a woman’s complaints of assault (which later turned out to be harassment). She went directly to the papers to complain of sexual assault. Turned out later she was a stripper in a local club at night. By then his career was wrecked. The kid in my case occurred after the Provost incident. He got drunk and grabbed a woman’s breasts.

    Unfortunately, you became a victim of the witch hunts that invariably follow the PC’ers. These people want to take things out of the chain of command which would not have given you the recourse of a local Mast. You would have gone directly to courts-martial.