Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Female Student Said, 'I'm Fine and I Wasn't Raped.' University Investigated, Expelled Boyfriend Anyway

Wrongfully suspended male athlete is suing the university and the Education Department

Colorado State University-Pueblo suspended a male athlete for years after he was found responsible for sexually assaulting a female trainer. But the trainer never accused him of wrongdoing, and said repeatedly that their relationship was consensual. She even stated, unambiguously, "I'm fine and I wasn't raped."

That's according to the athlete's lawsuit against CSUP, which persuasively argues that the university not only deprived him of fundamental due process rights, but also denied sexual agency to an adult woman. Taken at face value, this case appears to represent one of the most paternalistic, puritanically anti-sex witch hunts ever reported on a college campus.

But that's not the only reason this case is interesting. The student-athlete, Grant Neal, has named the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights as a co-defendant. OCR's Title IX guidance to universities "encourages male gender bias and violation of due process right during sexual misconduct investigations," according to a statement from Neal's legal team.

Earlier this month, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the law firm of Kaiser, LeGrand & Dillon offered to represent a student who is willing to sue OCR. While Neal has retained different legal representation, it appears that his lawyer—Andrew Miltenberg—is prepared to make similar arguments against Title IX overreach. (More on that in a bit.)

Neal's expulsion (it's silly to call it a "suspension"; multi-year suspensions are expulsions) stemmed from his allegedly improper sexual relationship with a female student and athletic trainer, Jane Doe. In the fall of 2015, Neal was a sophomore at CSUP: he and Doe became good friends and eventually developed romantic feelings for each other. Sexual relationships between athletes and trainers are frowned upon, however, so they first attempted to remain friends.

On October 23, they went to the movies together. Afterward, they kissed and engaged in consensual sexual behavior. They did so the following evening as well. These were not drunken hookups: these were mutually-agreed upon encounters, according to the details in the lawsuit.

At one point, Neal expressed concerns about giving Doe a hickey—a kiss mark on her neck—because the other trainers might notice it. Doe encouraged him to do so anyway, and promised to wear a hoodie the next day. These and other anecdotes demonstrate Doe's full complicity in the sexual activity that took place, though her statements are even more definitive.

The hickey was indeed noticed by another trainer, described as the "Complainant" in the lawsuit. When confronted, Doe confessed to the Complainant that she and Dean had engaged in sex. According to the lawsuit, the Complainant "presumed" this sex was nonconsensual, and reported it to the director of the athletic training program.

Later, when Doe found out, she gave Neal the bad news, and texted him the following messages:

"One of the other Athletic Training students screwed me over!...She went behind my back and told my AT advisor stuff that wasn’t true!!! I’m trying so hard to fix it all."

Neal and Doe met in person to discuss the situation. Without Doe's knowledge, Neal recorded their conversation. This audio recording further establishes that their sex was consensual. While in Neal's presence, Doe fielded a phone call from a coordinator of the athletic training program and stated "I'm fine and I wasn't raped." She then called her mother and told her the same thing.

Both Doe and her mother pressed the administrators of the athletic training program—a husband and wife team—to drop the matter, but it was too late: they had already informed the Title IX office.

To be clear, CSUP apparently believes that Title IX requires the university to investigate a student for sexual misconduct, even when his alleged victim resolutely insists that he is innocent and does not want the issue investigated. Administrators essentially treated Doe like an object that belonged to them—one that no one else was allowed to touch.

Neal and Doe, it should be noted, had consensual sex again—probably because they genuinely liked and were interested in each other, despite the university's herculean efforts to keep them from touching each other.

Doe told another administrator, "Our stories are the same and he’s a good guy. He’s not a rapist, he’s not a criminal, it’s not even worth any of this hoopla!"

To belabor the point a bit, here are messages she sent to Neal, even after the university instituted a reciprocal no-contact order during the investigation:

"I miss you & care about you so much Grant [Neal]! Everything will work out…I promise"

“I hope you know I still care about you so much! I’m trying so hard to fix this… you don’t deserve any of this. I just wanna talk to you again… I’m sooooo SORRY!” I hope that you are okay. I’m so worried. I’m so sorry! I’m so upset they did this."

The details of the adjudication process will be familiar to anyone who has read my other reports on sexual misconduct "disputes" ("dispute" being an increasingly odd word to use, given that I've now covered two consecutive cases where the "victims" agreed with the accused that their sex was consensual). He was denied full knowledge of the charges against him, presumed to be guilty from the outset, and could not cross-examine witnesses. He was suspended on an interim basis before the hearing could even take place.

The adjudicator—Defendant Roosevelt Wilson, who is named in the lawsuit—even refused to interview witnesses who would have corroborated Neal's account. "Defendant Wilson professed that he was in charge of the investigation and would be the only person to declare someone a witness in this matter," according to the lawsuit.

The predetermined outcome for Neal was a guilty verdict: he was suspended for the remainder of Doe's time at the university.

This is as gross a miscarriage of justice as they come, and Neal has filed suit. His lawyer, Miltenberg, blames not just CSUP, but the federal government's illiberal guidance to universities to police sexual assault without any respect for due process:

"From the outset, Grant Neal was presumed guilty of sexual misconduct based on nothing more than hearsay and his own male gender,” said Miltenberg. "In violation of the University’s own self-imposed policies and my client’s fundamental rights to due process, the University required Grant to prove his innocence, rather than requiring the University to prove his guilt.  This case illustrates the impact the Administration’s ‘Dear Colleague’ letter has had in creating a deeply-flawed process for sexual misconduct investigations -- as well as an inherent male gender bias — at colleges and universities throughout the country."

The lawsuit was filed today. I will be eagerly anticipating the federal government's response. What happened at CSUP was nothing short of a scandal: a cabal of vicious, sex-negative administrators ruined a young man's life and told a young woman she has no sexual agency. This is the world according to Title IX.


College education is worth a premium, but how much?

HIGH SCHOOL seniors barely need to be told about the upside of attending small private colleges. The grassy expanses, the intimate setting, and the atmosphere of endless possibility sell themselves. What students do need, especially if they come from low-income families, is a warning in big, bold type: “DO NOT BORROW $60,000 TO ATTEND THIS SCHOOL.”

High school guidance counselors aren’t delivering that message, and neither are colleges. Somebody needs to. Unfortunately, a federal government that’s heavily promoted access to college through convenient loans has done far less to help students confront the risks of over-borrowing.

In Sunday’s Globe Magazine, Neil Swidey reported from the nether circles of college-debt hell. Paying for a four-year degree is tough even for middle-class kids at state schools. But the picture is especially bleak for poorer students who enrolled — for reasons that seemed logical at the time — in nonelite private colleges with iffy graduation rates. One student Swidey interviewed started at Pine Manor before switching to UMass Boston and then Bridgewater State. She now has $65,000 in debt. Another student owes $84,000, after enrolling at Emmanuel, running into financial trouble, withdrawing, and then attending a succession of other schools.

US public policy treats a four-year degree as an unalloyed good, but the question of how students pay for it isn’t just an incidental detail. While those who attend rich schools like Amherst, Harvard, or MIT can finish with minimal debt, private Massachusetts colleges where a quarter or more of students come from low-income families charge them a net price of nearly $23,000 a year — and graduate fewer than half of their students within six years.

Perhaps not surprisingly, colleges discourage students from thinking about education in purely economic terms. Bucolic campuses and other intangibles are worth paying a premium, the argument goes. But how big a premium?

Swidey pressed administrators on how much debt students should be willing to take on. While one college official offered a plausible standard — borrow no more than you can expect to earn your first year out of college — most of the answers were exceedingly lame. “It’s different with every family.” “We don’t want to treat students with a broad brush here.”

The language of family diversity and consumer choice masks an unpleasant reality: In many cases, schools are counting on students to take on far more debt than is wise.

The Globe Magazine story should be required reading for college presidents and members of Congress, who’ve swatted down efforts to hold schools more accountable for students’ financial plight. While the Obama administration’s crackdown on for-profit schools with poor graduation rates has created a backlash primarily among Republicans, there was stiff bipartisan resistance to plans by the US Department of Education to rate colleges on such factors as whether their students graduate. Too bad — Congress should care whether schools are making good use of all the money Washington has been shoveling in their direction.

Loans aren’t grants. And big loans to students at institutions with poor graduation rates have one thing in common with subprime mortgages: The transaction may work out for the occasional borrower, but the daunting odds need to be disclosed up front. The fledgling Consumer Financial Protection Bureau could play a larger role. Created in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage crisis, the bureau has already been pushing for gentler, more personalized repayment plans for student loans.

But the greater good lies in helping students understand how much debt they can safely assume to begin with. At a moment in their lives when they’re thinking expansively about the future, and receiving multiple copies of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” 18-year-olds can easily underestimate the burden they face — and suffer the consequences for decades into the future.


Expanding the Schooling Monopoly One Toddler at a Time

Universal preschool is (again) making headlines as a cure for what ails us. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is the latest in a long line of politicians claiming universal, government-run preschool will improve high school graduation rates, as well as college and job preparation.

A few years back House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was insisting that we have a childcare “crisis,” which, of course, only government can fix. President Obama has repeatedly insisted universal preschool critical for long-term economic prosperity. And, Hillary Clinton has vowed to advance Obama’s “Preschool for All” by doubling Head Start Funding, which is currently $8.6 billion.

The ineffectiveness of government-run preschool is well documented. Moreover, the programs hailed by preschool proponents have serious flaws. (See also here and here.)

A closer look at Mayor de Blasio’s “Pre-K for All” plan, however, reveals the true agenda behind the push for universal preschool.

He touts it as a promise to disadvantaged children that “regardless of their family’s means or the zip code they call home, will have access to a life-changing early education.”

The number of children enrolled NYC Pre-K for All has more than tripled since 2013, from 20,000 children to more than 65,000 children as of this school year—which isn’t surprising since there’s no family income requirement to receive the subsidy.

Last year, UC Berkeley professor Bruce Fuller found that just 30 percent of the preschool classrooms were in the Big Apple’s poorest school districts. What’s more, about half the children enrolled in the taxpayer subsidized program had previously attended non-subsidized private preschools. Other data showed that Mayor de Blasio’s universal preschool program added less than 200 children from the bottom 20 percent of household income zip codes.

Essentially what plans like de Blasio’s do is simply expand the taxpayer-subsidized monopoly public schooling system to include four- and eventually three-year-olds regardless of their family income. What a boon that would be to New York school districts, which currently spend over $20,000 per-student on average.

Using the plight of disadvantaged families to expand government schooling is nothing new.

Nearly 200 years ago members of the Boston School Committee wanted to phase out private schools in favor of government schools, insisting that poor parents could not afford private school tuition. Yet the committee’s own survey results revealed that, on the contrary, 96 percent of the city’s children already attended school.

Thomas Paine appears to have predicted that compulsory schooling proponents would justify subsidies for public schools by appealing to the plight of poor children. In 1791 in the section of his seminal work The Rights of Man entitled the “Ways and Means of improving the Conditions of Europe, etc.,” Paine suggests that instead of subsidizing a schooling system, public funds should instead be provided to poor parents directly in the form of a voucher so they could send their children to schools of their choice. “Education, to be useful to the poor, should be on the spot; and the best method, I believe, to accomplish this, is to enable the parents to pay the expense themselves.”

Of course, the real agenda for people such as the Boston School Committee and their modern-day counterparts isn’t so much about helping the poor. It’s about expanding the public schooling system.

The percentage of 3- and 4-year olds nationwide attending private preschool programs has dropped from 57 percent in 1970 to 41 percent in 2014. Still, that percentage represents more than 1.8 million children. Subsidizing them as part of the public school system, even at just half of average per-student funding ($6,000), would add about $12 billion more to school districts’ annual budgets.

In a radio interview at the start of the school year, Mayor de Blasio laid bare what he considers the future of preschool in America:

The mayor imagined that in the future, pre-kindergarten would be not just universally available but compulsory.

“I think that is the way of the future,” he said. “I think there’s a great sense here that something very special is happening where we can take a whole school system of kids—every background, every neighborhood—and get them all on a strong start at the same time.”

In other words, what de Blasio considers “special” is forcing millions of individual children into a system where they’ll all be treated the same, and where the average high school senior graduates without having achieved proficiency in math or reading.

Personally, I prefer the Paine plan to de Blasio’s.


You Aren’t Entitled to a College Education

When I graduated from college, reality hit. I was now considered a “real adult.” In a matter of months I’d be moving out of my parents’ basement and some 700 miles away to start graduate school.

I was also struck by something I knew was coming, but hadn’t quite appreciated.  That “something” was my student loans.

There they were in black and white, those things I’d been taking out for some 48 months to pay for a Bachelor’s degree from a small liberal arts university. I owed tens of thousands of dollars and the bill was coming due. (For the record, I could have deferred payment as I was going to graduate school, but chose not to in order to avoid paying more interest.) I remember feeling overwhelmed. I’d never owed that much money in my life!

Certainly, I am not the only one who has faced student loans. It’s estimated that my follow graduates and I owe more than $1 trillion for their educational expenses. About 70 percent of graduates in 2014 had student debt averaging about $33,000.

It’s not uncommon to hear people complain about their loans—the interest rates, the cost of college overall, etc. I sympathize entirely. When I advise students, I’m very careful to help them map out their schedules. I tell them, “we don’t want you on the eight year plan.” Indeed, I want the best for my students. That means getting them out of school, finished with their degree, and working as soon as possible. (Despite what people say, it’s doable in four years if you’re careful—five if you have a few hiccups.)

But there are many people who view their loans differently than I did. While I looked at my loans as a means to an end—I could not have afforded to go to university without them—many see them as an affront to their sensibilities. Indeed, many individuals feel as though they are being taken advantage of because of their loans.

Others go further, suggesting that they and others are entitled to a college education. The fact they have loans at all fills them with disgust. Some suggest there is a moral imperative when it comes to education. Others, including democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders claim that higher education is a human right. The fact that many people struggle to pay for an education, or come out owing thousands of dollars, is a violation of their rights.

Sorry to disappoint Mr. Sanders—people do not have a right to a college education.

Let’s talk about “rights.”  We can define rights in one of two ways—positive or negative.

The “right” to a college education would be considered a “positive right.” A positive right means that someone else is required to provide a person with a particular good or service if he or she cannot acquire it on their own.

This is in contrast with “negative rights.” Negative rights require nothing from anyone else, only that they leave you alone. Examples of negative rights would be things like freedom of speech, religion, and assembly.

I have written on this blog about the tension between positive and negative rights. Specifically, it’s impossible for negative rights and positive rights to exist simultaneously. If people have positive rights, they can force others to provide something against their will, regardless of their own personal choices, beliefs, or goals. You cannot have negative rights if you have positive rights.

It seems to me that the seemingly endless push for “free” college, the forgiveness of student loans, and the consistent complaining about loans is indicative of two things. First, it shows that economics is painfully needed. (There is no such thing as free—ever—EVER—EVER!) Second, it illustrates a gross sense of entitlement.

Take, for example, this article, published a year ago in the New York Times. In it, the author discusses his reasons for defaulting on his student loans, after using them to obtain both an undergraduate and master’s degree.

"I could give up what had become my vocation (in my case, being a writer) and take a job that I didn’t want in order to repay the huge debt I had accumulated in college and graduate school. Or I could...[default] on my student loans, which was the only way I could survive without wasting my life in a job that had nothing to do with my particular usefulness to society. I chose life. That is to say, I defaulted on my student loans"

How incredibly self-absorbed. What this author argues, in essence, is that he could not bring himself to actually face reality that his “vocation” would not allow him to meet his obligations. He had, by his own admission, viable alternatives, ones that would allow him to pay off his debts, but he decided that his pride was more important than honoring his commitments. He decided to allow other people to pay for his poor life choices.

This scenario is repeated over and over again. People make the choice to go to college. Once in school, they make choices about their classes, their work ethic, and their grades. They bear the consequences of these actions—both good and bad. If you work hard, get good grades, and major in math, you’ve set yourself up much better than someone who went to keg parties, got straight “Cs” and majored in gender studies. Maybe it’s your “passion,” but other people aren’t obligated to help your pursue it.

As I mentioned, I went to a small liberal arts university. I wouldn’t change this decision. At the end of the day, that environment shaped me into the person I am today. It introduced me to the economic way of thinking and prepared me for graduate school. But it was a choice. I could have made others. I could have worked before going to school to save up money. I could have gone to one of several large state schools in and around the city. This would have cut my costs dramatically. I could have taken more classes instead of working over the summer and throughout the year. But I didn’t. Hundreds of thousands of other Americans have done the same. They’ve invested in their education with someone else’s money, and now they’re paying it back.

And they should pay it back. An education is a privilege, not a right.


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