October 13, 2006

COS Task Force Debate -- Reboot

I want to make a few things much more clear about the arguments being presented in favor of the COS Task Force-'girls should have the balls to be grilled by the men they accuse' recommendations.

First of all, the argument that criminal trial-level standards of evidence and due process is unsound for the following, very simple reason:

COS hearings are not criminal trials and do not mete out criminal penalties.

The United States itself recognizes the need for different standards of evidence in the distinction between criminal and civil trials—if you can remember, OJ was acquitted in his criminal trial but was found guilty in the civil trial because the standard for proof was lower. COS hearings aren't equivalent to criminal trials; they aren't even equivalent to civil trials. They are part of the administration of a private institution, and both the standards for evidence and the available forms of discipline reflect that vast difference.

Secondly, while I believe an argument can be made (though I would not myself make it) that COS hearings do not provide enough rights and protection to the accused, that is not a sufficient condition, even if true, for the system to be replaced by state or local agents. The alcohol policy, intending as it does to at least limit underage drinking, is clearly magnitudes more ineffective than COS's handling of sexual assault cases, yet I don't hear anyone crying out that we should replace our alcohol abuse procedures with local or state intervention. While the Task Force did not make the recommendation to bring in state or local agents, some of the commenters in support of their recommendations did.

Thirdly, it is absurd and disgusting to me to talk only about how a sexual assault accusation affects only the life of the male student who is accused, as if sexual assault does not have the capacity to gravely and permanently damage the life of the actual victim. The panic any talk of sexual assault and especially the discipline thereof raises among many men on this campus and the inevitable wave of self-righteous tirades about their infringed rights tells a lot, I think.

A lot of these arguments proceed from the position that frivolous or malicious sexual assault accusations are a much more likely and much greater danger to the campus than the actual fact of sexual assault itself. That is incredible to me—these arguments ask us to believe that the number of cases of false accusations significantly outweighs the number of actual sexual assaults. Actually to be more precise, they ask us to believe that

(# of false accusations)*(damage of single false accusation) >> (# of actual sexual assaults)*(damage of single sexual assault)

I don't believe that, not even for a moment.

Edit: I realize that it may appear that the second and third points of this post refer to the actual recommendations of the Task Force. They do not. They refer to the whole discourse (on this blog and elsewhere) concerning the appropriateness of COS's policies regarding sexual assault. While the Task Force did not recommend the use of local or state law enforcement to investigate or discipline sexual abuse on campus, others have and I was responding to them. Additionally, my third point was not meant to refer to the Task Force's specific recommendations, but to the type of rhetoric that is often used (by others) to support changes in the way COS adjudicates sexual assault cases.


  1. Adam Shpeen8:58 AM


    I'm glad to see that you're interested in creating a dialogue on the COS Task Force Report on this blog - I think more discourse is needed on this important subject.

    However, as an author of the COS Task Force Report, which will be made public via the SA Website (sa.dartmouth.edu) very shortly, I disagree with several (if not all) of your arguments. In light of this, I urge you and anyone you know who is interested to attend an open hour session with six of the COS Task Force authors, which will take place this Tuesday, at 6 PM, in Collis 101 (campus wide blitz to come on Monday).

    In response to an earlier comment of yours, I was the sole individual responsible for the composition of the members of the Task Force. Last Spring I received 41 applicants for 6 spots on the force. I can assure you that individuals were chosen to be on the task force solely on the strength of their application. That I happen to be in a fraternity with two of the six members was an irrelevant factor in my deciding to accept them.

    Keep in touch,

    Adam Shpeen '07
    COS Task Force Chair

  2. Anonymous1:23 PM

    Let me get this straight, you say that rape is different from other serious felonies and then compare it's treatment with that of alcohol violations?

    Rape is closer to murder in viciousness, severity, and consequences than it is to buying a case of natty light underage.

    The college would never dream of prosecuting a murder internally. Then why a sexual assault?

    I stand by my original assertion that Dartmouth college does not have the resources or ability to investigate a rape case in any effective manner. College deans are trained to as conselors, not judges. S&S is trained for, well, I don't know what they're trained for, but certainly not for felony investigations.

    Sidenote: I'd love for the college to get out of the alcohol enforcement business (especially with off-campus locations). The moment they did, Hanover police would have to do their job and enforce the law. Let greek houses deal with the consequences of their actions without S&S to act as a buffer from the police.

  3. My comparison was meant only to show the hypocrisy of calling for outside investigation/enforcement in one area and not in another.

    Your argument relies on the idea that a female student cannot prosecute in an actual court of law a male student for rape if she submits an accusation of sexual abuse to COS. As far as I know, that is not true. COS does not purport to be a criminal court investigating rape cases; it is an administrative panel disciplining cases of sexual abuse. These are separate things; conflating them is misleading and inaccurate.

  4. Anonymous3:28 PM

    "it is an administrative panel disciplining cases of sexual abuse"

    In an instance when the incident of sexual abuse IS rape, I'm saying that the college does not have the resources or expertise to properly investigate such case. This is a fact, no matter how horrible the crime is. There is no CSI-dick's house - no trained investigators to interview witnesses. If they are not able to investigate such an offence thoroughly, any proceedings will be inherently unfair.

  5. Rape does not have to be proven in order to prove sexual abuse. Dick's House doesn't have to be CSI for enough evidence or testimony to be collected to charge and investigate a case of sexual abuse. Just as you can have a fair manslaughter trial even if the crime is really murder, but is not provable, so you can have a fair disciplinary hearing on sexual abuse even if the actual act was rape. And as I've been saying, such a hearing does not foreclose the possibility of the formal, criminal accusation of rape in a court of law. Your argument just doesn't work.

  6. Anonymous5:53 PM

    "Rape does not have to be proven in order to prove sexual abuse"

    Okay, I'm going to regret this request. But, please give me an hypothetical situation where sexual abuse could be proved, but not rape.

  7. Stephen Cesaro10:37 PM


    I am quite familiar with your tactic of taking the points of my argument and distorting them ever-so-slightly to the point where you can legitimately disprove them.

    Or perhaps you just didn't read my comment well enough to understand what I was saying. Maybe you're just blinded by your own misguided views. The fact that you didnt even read what I said well enough to spell my first name correctly leads me to believe that all of the above is probably true.



  8. why StePHen, have I distorted your arguments before? i don't recall your name, in any spelling, appearing before on my blog.

    Anyway, why don't you tell me specifically how I distorted your comments. Because I think a general "you misunderstood me willfully" claim without a full revelation of the depth of my dishonesty is a pretty weak defense. Spell it out, Steve. I can't read well, according to you, so you'll just have to help me.

  9. anonymous (5:53pm), do you understand that sexual abuse does not require penetration?

    how about this: i heard about this one guy who sneaked into a drunk girl's room and stuck his dick in her face. guess what, that qualifies as sexual abuse, but it's not rape.