February 8, 2006

More Sense

I just want to add a little bit to my last post on sexual assault and rape and the increase in reported cases of the same by pointing out two things about the kind of attitude that leads to posts like Joe's, or articles like this from the Review.

First of all, it's interesting to me that conservatives who either read Allan Bloom with avidity or think like him or frown on freaky sex or loose sex or all of the above would oppose a policy (or set of policies) that is likely to make sexual relations at Dartmouth more stable, more often occurring within a relationship of some sort, and more likely to hold or bear some "meaning." No, I'm not saying that SAAP could or will act as a midwife to monogamy, but let's be honest and realize that forcing people to take rape and sexual assault seriously probably will put a damper (perhaps a small one) on the hook-up culture. And some people might think that's a decent idea.

Second of all, I find it a little absurd that anyone's first reaction to hearing about an increase in the number of reported rapes and sexual assaults is more or less, "Oh those fucking feminists." That's really your first reaction? Come on, what kind of cynicism is it that you just presume that the increase is due to lies, or haziness that is encouraged in the direction of lies. What does that say about your opinion of women? Empty-headed credulity is harmful, but skepticism of the sort practiced by Joe and the Review is no less concerned with forging a view on the matter with as few facts as possible and is as much predicated on what is comfortable, and not what is right or accurate.


  1. re: last sentence

    well, yeah.

  2. Anonymous12:07 PM

    Let's all remember that false accusations do in fact happen and that the heinousness of the crime should not influence the required burden or proof to prove guilt.

  3. you're right, the heinousness of the crime should not affect the burden of proof, but the nature of the crime might.

    but unreported, real cases do also occur, and i'd wager in much greater numbers than false accusations, and the skepticism that says the reverse is ignorant, irresponsible, and obscene.

  4. Anonymous10:39 PM


    Should we set the burden of proof so that for every 10 guilty persons, one is wrongly punished? How about 100 to 1? Or 1000 to 1? Let's set a particular ratio for each crime based upon the "heinousness" or "nature".

    Or we could just apply "beyond a reasonable doubt" for everything.

    Personally, I don't understand why the burden of proof for the Dartmouth administration/COS should be any different than that in a court of law.

  5. Clearly, you misunderstood me when I used the word "nature." I meant the properties appertaining to the actual events involved in the crime—the characteristics of its physical and temporal details. Those properties and characteristics are not ones that lead to the removal of all doubt. Clear now? I would never suggest a system like you propose.

    But I'd like to know what exactly you do think constitutes "beyond a reasonable doubt." What evidence does one have that the sex was not consensual? Now, you may argue that the legal (or de facto, if you prefer) stipulations concerning what is regarded as consent are unjust and should be changed, but that's a whole different argument. That argument's a whole lot more than just brandishing (rightfully) the possibility of a reasonable doubt; it's about creating a new definition of consent.

  6. Anonymous4:53 PM

    Personally, I don't understand why the burden of proof for the Dartmouth administration/COS should be any different than that in a court of law.

    As far as I can tell, it's "beyond a reasonable doubt" only in the criminal system because (a) if the defendant loses, he goes to jail, and (b) the government is held to a higher standard than private entities.

    In civil cases, in "courts of law," the burden of proof is usually "more likely than not." If someone sues you for breaking a contract, running them over with your car, fraud, etc., the burden is "more likely than not." In some cases, if you lose a civil suit, your reputation is ruined and you're bankrupt. See, for example, O.J. Simpson.

    Because the COS can't put you in jail or even fine you, but can only suspend you and damage your reputation, "more likely than not" is probably an appropriate burden. And it's the same burden that would be used in court if the same level of punishment was at stake.

    To use a different analogy, if an employer wanted to fire you from a job, unless you have a contract that provides otherwise, the burden of proof is much lower and is generally "employer's discretion."

    Sexual assault allegations are a touchy subject. Just an allegation of rape is enough to kill a guy's reputation, even if it's never proven, which results in something like a "guilty-until-proven-innocent" dynamic w/r/t the guy's reputation. Lots of people now think that Kobe Bryant is a rapist (me included, probably). The College administration should be sensitive to that sort of thing.

    But they should also be sensitive to the other side of it, which is that a lot of women face heavy social consequences for reporting rape, and a lot of rapes go unreported as a result.

  7. Anonymous11:10 PM

    Here's my problem: I understand the notion that "beyond a reasonable doubt" may not be appropriate for a college setting - just like in a civil setting or work setting (both good points).

    My problem is that Dartmouth does not explicitly define what the burden of proof is. Is is "beyond a reasonable doubt?" or "beyond a likely doubt" or "probably"?

    Each level of a burden of proof carries with it an implicit probably of false prosecution. Though those found guilty by Dartmouth do not go to jail, they are penalized. They can not attend any college/university of merit. The judgement will show up on background checks for the rest of their lives.

    Whenever a burden of proof is established, we accept the notion that a certain percentage of those found guilty will be falsely convicted. We need to understand this when making policy - and use this to trade off the consequences.