Thursday, September 10, 2020

Racism and Sexual Assault: Why Don't Universities Choose to Shut Down?

Often times, when universities implement some sort of woke cause, they will begin by proclaiming that the university and its constituents suffer greatly from some evil. For instance, a few years ago, Georgetown's president sent everyone a letter about sexual misconduct the university which said that the typical undergraduate woman had a 1 in 3 chance of being sexually assaulted and an almost 1 in 2 chance of being sexual harassed. Similarly, universities will preface some announcement about this or that initiative by saying that they exhibit rampant white supremacy, neocolonialism, or mass systematic racism.

Now, at the least in the former example, we can say that the numbers aren't correct. Georgetown used an improper survey method--one that you couldn't get published in a decent poli sci journal--and also overly inclusive definitions of "sexual assault" and "sexual harassment" which didn't correspond to the legal definitions of those words. (Indeed, later, during faculty senate meetings, it become clear that our Title IX coordinator didn't know the legal definitions of these terms. Note that we are required by the Clery Act to inform the government of all instances of sexual assault.)

But suppose that's wrong and the university's survey were right. Why would they think that the proper response is to do milquetoast bullshit, such as hiring more Title IX staff? That almost sounds like one is mocking the supposed problem.

Instead, the university should shut down--or do some other very radical change. If we learned that 31.6% of students at Smiling Faces Daycare Center were sexually assaulted while there, we wouldn't insist they hire a few more feminist scholar daycare workers or do more sexual assault programming. We would insist that the institution be closed and that those who committed assault be punished. We'd want the center's president punished for enabling assault for so long.

Similarly, if 31.6% of Georgetown women will be sexually assaulted while here, that's not some minor issue to respond to with pro-social posturing. It requires actual change. This might mean, say, segregating the dorms and forbidding people of different sexes from entering other dorms, on pain of expulsion. It might mean radically reducing on-campus residence but also ensuring the problem does not simply move off-campus. It might mean a policy of zero tolerance for alcohol with immediate expulsion for violators. It would at the very least require the university to inform prospective students that the school is a horrible rape factory and that they should strongly consider going to safer places, or taking extreme precautions before attending this dangerous place. 

Relatedly, if Georgetown or any other university is indeed deeply racist and white supremacist, it seems that at the very least, we must warn prospective students and especially admitted students of this problem before they matriculate. "Congratulations on your admission. We hope you'll attend, but not that we suffer from rampant white supremacism and so you come here at great risk." Every admissions brochure should come with a clear warning. 

Of course, in the latter case, some people do in fact advocate taking radical steps, including mandating that faculty and students take classes in various ideologies and demanding that speech be regulated. 

At any rate, in reality, we know that schools play loose with definitions for ideological ends. Imagine an admin said that he really hated mice infestations. When you ask him about how bad the mouse problem is, you discover that he not only has invented statistics, but that he also has an overly inclusive definition of "mouse" which includes rats (reasonable in this case), squirrels, chipmunks, crickets, spiders, grasshoppers, and cigarette butts. When you realize he gets paid to kill "mice" so defined, you'd probably think the person was exaggerating the problem for his own selfish ends, and that he is co-opting our legitimate concern about mice to promote his self-interest and status. In a way, that would show he doesn't really care about eliminating the mouse problem--he'd be in a way the most pro-mouse person on campus.